Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston are developing an imaging system that will essentially light up and color cancerous tumors, enabling surgeons to evaluate whether they've resected an entire diseased area. The system, called fluorescence- assisted resection and exploration - or FLARE - is portable and consists of a near infrared (NIR) imaging system, a video monitor, and a computer.
Chemical dyes called NIR fluorophores are designed to target specific structures when injected into patients. When exposed to NIR light, the contrast agents light up targeted cells and are viewed on a video monitor during surgery. If, for instance, cancer cells are targeted, the image of the lit-up cancer cells can be superimposed over the surgical field, allowing surgeons to cut away the fluorescent "glowing" cells - sparing nerves and other healthy structures in the area. The BIDMC team is currently focusing human trials on sentinel lymph node mapping in patients with breast cancer.