Surgery is an indispensable tool in the treatment of cancer, but those who perform surgery have little room to work when cutting open cancer cells, needing to extract as many cancer cells as possible while keeping healthy tissue intact,media New Atlas reported. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have been working on a technique that could help, showing how to use glowing dyes to illuminate breast cancer cells in dogs, which they say offers hope for improving the effectiveness of human surgery.
The use of dyes and particles to illuminate tumor cells in the body is an idea that scientists have been exploring for years. The technique could mean that surgery could safer remove cancer, and doctors can ensure that there is no cell residue that does not cause the disease to recur or spread.
Scientists have studied how oral pills deliver this type of fluorescent dye to tumors in breast tissue, then light up cancer cells in infrared light, as well as enzymes that can be applied to achieve similar effects. The technology being studied by the University of Pennsylvania team is an FDA-approved contrast agent called indigo green (ICG), which previous studies have shown can distinguish cancer tissue from healthy tissue in near-infrared light.
The dye is thought to accumulate selectively in cancer cells because it can penetrate through blood vessels in the tumor, which leak more easily than conventional blood vessels in healthy tissue. The team began testing the technique on dogs with breast tumors, injecting them with ICG the day before surgery.
After the operation, the surgeon examines the extracted tumors, the site of the original tumor and the lymph nodes to see how well ICG shines on cancer cells and whether they may have spread. The team found that larger tumors did accumulate more dyes and found evidence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes of the breast fluid that were first discharged.
Study senior author David Holt said: “In women with breast cancer and in dogs with breast cancer, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it can be predicted. What we have shown is that we can identify the dile nodes of drainage and the lymph nodes with metastatic disease. “The researchers hope that with further work, the technology will be adapted to humans, and is now studying its efficacy in this area. They say that if there is no other reason, it can lead to improved treatment for our canine friends.
“There are two main benefits to doing this kind of research,” Holt said. “Dogs are a good model for human breast cancer, but there are some real opportunities for dogs to benefit as well. “
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.