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
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)
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(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.