Surgeons Make Cancer Cells Glow Bright Green to Reduce RecurrenceResearch & Clinical Trials
Asbestos.com is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource
The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.
Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.
More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.
About The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com
- Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
- Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
- A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
- 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."LashawnMesothelioma patient’s daughter
How to Cite Asbestos.com’s Article
Povtak, T. (2020, October 16). Surgeons Make Cancer Cells Glow Bright Green to Reduce Recurrence. Asbestos.com. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.asbestos.com/news/2014/09/09/cancer-cells-glow-in-surgery/
Povtak, Tim. "Surgeons Make Cancer Cells Glow Bright Green to Reduce Recurrence." Asbestos.com, 16 Oct 2020, https://www.asbestos.com/news/2014/09/09/cancer-cells-glow-in-surgery/.
Povtak, Tim. "Surgeons Make Cancer Cells Glow Bright Green to Reduce Recurrence." Asbestos.com. Last modified October 16, 2020. https://www.asbestos.com/news/2014/09/09/cancer-cells-glow-in-surgery/.
Making cancer tumors glow in the dark may sound like 1950s science fiction, but specialists say the luminous invaders could help reduce recurrence.
Thoracic surgeons, who are mostly limited to sight and feel in identifying tumors and their margins, often inadvertently leave behind cancer cells that increase the chance and rate of a cancer returning.
However, doctors in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are injecting lung cancer patients with a dye that makes cancerous tissue glow bright green under near-infrared light (NIF), making tumors more identifiable during surgery and less likely missed by surgeons.
“This has worked well with lung cancer,” University of Pennsylvania surgeon Sunil Singhal, M.D., told Asbestos.com recently. “No doubt, the potential application is there for mesothelioma. This could change the way surgeries are done.”
Although the technique has not been used on human patients with mesothelioma, Singhal believes that moment is approaching.
Testing the Glowing Dye
The experimental technique was first tested in the Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine on 50 mice injected with cancer cells (including mesothelioma), and then eight dogs with lung tumors. Research continued with five humans with cancer in the lungs or elsewhere in the chest, according to the results of the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Doctors injected all patients with indocyanine green (ICG), a popular, nontoxic contrast agent approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and used in fluorescence imaging because it glows green under NIF light. Because ICG concentrates more in tumor tissues than in normal ones, it creates an obvious visual differentiation.
ICG has been used for years to examine tissue perfusion and for surgery-clearance studies. Only recently has it been used with the goal of preventing local-recurrence of cancer after surgery.
Results of the Study Were Mixed
Scientists discovered they could distinguish tumors from healthy lung tissue as early as 15 days after the mice acquired cancer. The same tumors were not visible to the human eye until 24 days.
Researchers said the NIR imaging on the dogs “was not particularly superior to the surgeons’ ability to tell apart normal versus cancerous tissue,” the study shows.
The results on the human patients were more significant, although there were limitations.
In four of the five human patients, surgeons easily could see, feel and mark the tumor margins with or without the NIR light; however, the NIR light in the fifth patient revealed glowing sections of diffuse microscopic cancer that extended beyond the tumor margin in an area originally thought as a healthy part of the lung.
But the study’s results show the NIR light was unable to distinguish cancer cells from inflammatory tissue, the report shows.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but this concept is really appealing,” Singhal said.
‘Concept Is Promising’
The Perelman School estimates that 20 to 50 percent of all cancer surgery patients eventually have recurrence, which often comes from microscopic cancer cells left behind.
The diffuse nature of pleural mesothelioma makes it difficult for even the best thoracic surgeon to know that all cancer cells were removed. That problem has sparked intraoperative chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy, both designed to help kill cancer cells remaining after surgery.
This new visualization technique using the glowing green dye should help surgeons better identify all cancer cells, reducing those odds.
“That’s been a fundamental problem with cancer surgery for many years,” Singhal said. “That’s why this is so intriguing. There are a lot of things that need to be worked out, but the concept is promising.”