Nav: Home

Glowing tumors could help surgeons cut out cancer

January 21, 2016

A breast cancer patient is wheeled into the operating room. She is connected to an IV that sends dye molecules into her blood that travel to her tumors. The surgeon inserts a small camera into the patient's chest and her breast tissue appears on a nearby monitor. The cancer cells are glowing a bright green. Such optical probes, which are meant to improve tumor removal, are already in phase I and phase II clinical trials in humans and could be a common procedure in the next 5-10 years. A review of their progress is published January 21 in the premier issue of Cell Chemical Biology, previously known as Chemistry & Biology.

Fluorescence detection is already in use during surgery. Surgeons can use instruments to detect dyes in the blood that make the blood glow. This is meant to help surgical teams find blood vessels or detect successful perfusion of tissues during transplant. In addition to the non-targeted dye to detect blood flow, there has been a revolution in the development of chemical dyes that can bind to specific cancer cells over the past two decades. This has led to quite a variety in how such reporters bind, the cell types they bind to, and the light the reporters emit.

"It's a field that's up and coming really fast right now," says biochemist Matthew Bogyo, senior author on the review. "Most people have no idea this stuff can be done, its sounds like science fiction, but we're less than a decade away from this becoming standard practice."

Molecular imaging is a major focus of Bogyo's lab at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Since 2003, he and his team have been working on chemical agents that can target enzymes (proteases) that are specifically secreted by cancer cells. The light that these optical probes emit can then be picked up by cameras that can see light that penetrates through skin and tissues. In 2008, Bogyo co-founded a company, Akrotome Imaging, to help translate some of his lab's discoveries into the clinic.

From Bogyo's perspective, some of the barriers to moving this early stage research along faster are the costs to funding larger phase II and III clinical trials, as well as questions around what the regulatory path will be like. Another unknown is whether these fluorescent dyes will work for all types of tumors.

"Ideally, we'd like a silver bullet that can light up any lesions that you want to remove," Bogyo says. "The proteases my lab works on tend to be involved in any kind of inflammatory process, but other agents are more specific--say, looking at markers only upregulated in prostate cancer."

However they work, having precise optical probes for cancer working in the operating room is predicted to help in two ways: by cutting the cost of having to do repeat tumor removal surgeries because more surgeries will be successful the first time, and most importantly, by helping improve patient outcomes.
-end-
This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Stanford Medical Scientist Training Program, and by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Cell Chemical Biology, Garland et al.: "A Bright Future for Precision Medicine: Advances in Fluorescent Chemical Probe Design and Their Clinical Application" http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2015.12.003

Cell Chemical Biology (@CellChemBiol), published by Cell Press, is a monthly journal publishing research and review content of exceptional interest for the chemical biology community. The journal's mission is to support and promote chemical biology and drive conversation and collaboration between chemical and life sciences. For more information, please visit http://www.cell.com/chemistry-biology. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com

Cell Press

Related Cancer Cells Articles:

Cancer cells send signals boosting survival and drug resistance in other cancer cells
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that cancer cells appear to communicate to other cancer cells, activating an internal mechanism that boosts resistance to common chemotherapies and promotes tumor survival.
A protein that stem cells require could be a target in killing breast cancer cells
Researchers have identified a protein that must be present in order for mammary stem cells to perform their normal functions.
Single gene encourages growth of intestinal stem cells, supporting 'niche' cells -- and cancer
A gene previously identified as critical for tumor growth in many human cancers also maintains intestinal stem cells and encourages the growth of cells that support them, according to results of a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers.
Prostate cancer cells grow with malfunction of cholesterol control in cells
Advanced prostate cancer and high blood cholesterol have long been known to be connected, but it has been a chicken-or-egg problem.
Immune therapy scientists discover distinct cells that block cancer-fighting immune cells
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre scientists have discovered a distinct cell population in tumours that inhibits the body's immune response to fight cancer.
More Cancer Cells News and Cancer Cells Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...