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Surgical technique spots cancer invasion with fluorescence
Date:1/10/2013

One of the greatest challenges faced by cancer surgeons is to know exactly which tissue to remove, or not, while the patient is under anesthesia. A team of surgeons and scientists at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new technique that will allow surgeons to identify during surgery which lymph nodes are cancerous so that healthy tissue can be saved. The findings will be published in the January 15 print edition of Cancer Research.

"This research is significant because it shows real-time intraoperative detection of cancer metastases in mice," said Quyen T. Nguyen, MD, PhD, associate professor of Head and Neck Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "In the future, surgeons will be better able to detect and stage cancer that has spread to the patient's lymph nodes using molecules that were designed and developed at UC San Diego."

Lymph nodes, located throughout the body, serve as filters that contain immune cells to fight infection and clean the blood. When cancer cells break away from a tumor, the cells can travel through the lymph system and hide in these tiny organs. Surgeons remove the nodes to determine if a cancer has spread. However, human nodes, only half a centimeter in size, are difficult to discern among the surrounding tissue during surgery. Furthermore, even when surgeons are able to map the location of the nodes, there is no current technique that indicates whether or not the lymph nodes contain cancer, requiring removal of more lymph nodes than necessary.

"With molecular-targeted imaging, surgeons can avoid unnecessary removal of healthy lymph nodes which is better long-term for patients," said Nguyen, director of the facial nerve clinic at UC San Diego Health System. "The range of the surgeon's visual field is greatly enhanced by a molecular tool that can help achieve accurate surgical margins and detection of metastases so that no tumor is left behind."

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Contact: Jackie Carr
jcarr@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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