Glowing Cancer Cells Signal Surgical Leap

New technique takes much of the guesswork out of tumor removal

By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 25, 2009 2:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – Surgery to remove tumors has always been a delicate undertaking. Surgeons must try to remove all of the cancerous cells while minimizing the loss of surrounding tissue, a task made harder by the fact that it’s difficult to tell the difference just by looking. No longer: Scientists have found a way to make tumors glow green, the Economist reports.

The fluorescence trick itself netted its developers a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008, but they needed to adapt it to illuminate only the cancerous cells. That done, doctors have deployed the dye in mice, and found a fivefold increase in survival rates among those given the glow. Better yet, the dye could be used in MRIs to identify undiscovered tumors.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008 went to research on a green glowing jellyfish protein that revolutionized the ability to study disease and normal development in living organisms.
The Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008 went to research on a green glowing jellyfish protein that revolutionized the ability to study disease and normal development in living organisms.   (AP Photo)
Cancer surgery has always been a gamble, as surgeons attempt to take out all of the tumor but minimal amounts of surrounding tissue. But making tumor cells glow vastly improves success rates.
Cancer surgery has always been a gamble, as surgeons attempt to take out all of the tumor but minimal amounts of surrounding tissue. But making tumor cells glow vastly improves success rates.   (AP Photo)
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