September 16, 2014 – Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently reported successful outcomes for lung cancer patients undergoing surgery to remove cancerous tumors and tissue. They found that patients are less likely to experience a local recurrence of their cancer following surgery when using a technique involving near-infrared imaging (NIR) and a contrast dye called ICG. The study was a collaboration of research teams from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the study published in a recent edition of PLOS ONE, researchers reported that the FDA-approved ICG attaches to cancerous tissue when injected into patients prior to surgery. Surgeons can then shine an infrared light into the affected area during surgery that will illuminate malignant tissue, helping surgeons to completely remove all cancerous tumors and cells. The procedure was first tested in laboratory mice with lung cancer, and then on dogs with lung cancer with successful results. It was then approved for a human clinical trial.
Until now, surgeons had to identify malignant tumors and tissue by seeing or feeling them during surgery. The NIR and ICG approach allows surgeons to identify and remove cancerous tissue that is not easily seen or felt, which will improve the patient’s chances of a full recovery. In one study participant, the NIR/ICG approach identified malignant tissue that showed up as healthy tissue on CT and PET scans. This finding allowed surgeons to not only remove the unanticipated cancerous tissue, but to also decide to administer chemotherapy that significantly reduced the likelihood of a recurrence in this patient.
The study team did report that the ICG dye could attach itself to inflamed, non-cancerous tissue in the body making it difficult to distinguish inflamed tissue from malignant tissue. Researchers are currently working to find a solution to this problem.
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