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Fluorescent probes light up cancerous tumors
Date:2/16/2010

Building on his Nobel Prize-winning work creating fluorescent proteins that light up the inner workings of cells, a team of researchers led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Roger Tsien, PhD, professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and the Moores UCSD Cancer Center has developed biological probes that can stick to and light up tumors in mice. The scientists were able to spot and remove more cancerous tissue in mice injected with the fluorescent probes than in those mice without the fluorescent probes, upping survival five-fold. The findings reported online the week of February 15 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are the latest steps in research aimed at helping surgeons see the outlines of cancerous tumors in real time, and promise to open new doors to using molecular tools in the operating room.

"The development of biological probes that can guide surgeons, rather than depending only on feel and normal 'white light' to see, can provide tools to navigate the body on a molecular level," said first author Quyen Nguyen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Surgeons often rely on feel, look and experience to tell if they have removed all of a tumor while sparing healthy tissue. While the patient lies on the operating table under anesthesia, tissue samples are quickly examined by pathologists, and remaining tumor tissue is sometimes missed, meaning further surgery or a greater likelihood of tumor recurrence. Tsien, Nguyen and colleagues used synthetic molecules called activatable cell penetrating peptides (ACPPs) and microscopic nanoparticles to develop probes carrying fluorescent and magnetic tags. These tags make tumors visible to MRI and allow the tumors to "glow" on the operating table. The team wanted to see if the probes could aid surgeons in seeing more of the
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
sbenowitz@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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