Novel sensor to aid cancer surgery


Rebecca Pool

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 13:15
Image: Cancer tissue lit up by fluorescent nanosenor [UT Southwestern Medical Center]
A novel digital nanosensor that lights up cancer tissue is to be tested in breast cancer patients. 
Professors Jinming Gao and Baran Sumer, from UT Southwestern, Dallas, have spent a decade developing the fluorescent probe that is hoped will improve the accuracy of cancer surgeries, and reduce cancer recurrence and surgical morbidity.
Without the nanosensor: cancer surrounded by healthy tissue, [UT Southwestern Medical Center]
The nanosensor reacts to low pH and illuminates cancerous tissue, to help surgeons remove cancer cells while leaving healthy, functional tissue intact.
"We synthesised an imaging probe that stays dark in normal tissues but switches on in solid tumours, behaving like a digital sensor with binary readouts between the two states," explains Gao from Pharmacology and Otolaryngology at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Cancer is a diverse set of diseases, but it does have some universal features," he adds. "As solid tumors ramp up, they eat more glucose and secrete lactic acid, so the microenvironment around the cancer cells is acidic."
Gao and Sumer developed the sensor and have integrated it with a clinical camera.
The nanosensor that Dr Jinming Gao, right, and Dr Baran Sumer have spent 10 years developing is poised to be tested in breast cancer surgeries, [UT Southwestern Medical Center].
The nanosensor lights up cancerous tissue and also suppresses the signal in normal tissue, leading to a sharp line between cancer and healthy tissue. It is expected to be effective in all solid tumours.
First to be treated with the new technology will be breast cancer patients at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, which is collaborating in the clinical trials.
Patients will be intravenously injected with the nanosensor medication about 12 hours before surgery, and tumours will fluoresce for up to two days. 
The nanosensor technology and the camera are being developed by OncoNano Medicine.
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