Rapid Cancer-Cell Detection with Fluorescent Spray

B0006421 Breast cancer cells

One of the greatest challenges surgeons face in dealing with cancer is identifying malignant cells in order to remove them, but a new fluorescent spray may change this.

The spray, which was developed by Hisataka Kobayashi of the National Cancer Institute, marks cancer cells within a minute, and it is hoped that it will one day be used in surgery to identify cells surgeons miss.

A study of the spray's ability to label cancer cells in lab mice was published last week in Science Translation Medicine. According to a report in Technology Review, the spray is activated by an enzyme called y-glutamyl transpeptidase that is abundant in tumor cells but not in normal cells. The spray is particularly fast-acting because the enzyme is on the cell's surface.

"A probe that is fast like this could really benefit surgeons in the operating room," says Michael Bouvet, a cancer surgery expert at the University of California, San Diego. Bouvet coauthored an editorial accompanying the study. "Even when you think you've taken out all of the primary tumor, you'd be surprised by how much cancer is often left behind."

In an interview with Technology Review, Bouvet indicated that the spray could prove especially useful for ovarian and colon cancer because of the way they spread into surrounding tissue, which makes removal very challenging.

According to the report, the spray is already being tested on human tumor samples and is expected to go into full clinical trials in a few years. You can read the full article in Technology Review here.