Making Tumors Glow for Easier Identification During Surgery

Distinguishing a cancerous tumor from healthy tissue during surgery can be very difficult. MRI scans can be used prior to surgery to reveal tumor boundaries, but once the surgery has begun, surgeons have to rely on their hands and eyes to make the distinction. Cancer cells are often missed, which can lead to regrowth of the tumor. Quyen Nguyen, MD, PhD, a head and neck surgeon at the University of California San Diego, describes the development of a novel molecule that causes tumors to glow during surgery, making it easier for them to be removed. Nguyen is also developing a molecule that illuminates nerves, which can be difficult to identify due to their small size. The molecule could help surgeons avoid accidentally cutting nerves responsible for movement, feeling, or bladder control.