Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, in the third week of January 2013 developed a fresh technique that enables surgeons to find out about the reach of tumours and helps them to decide which tissues should be removed for saving the healthy cells in cancer patients.
In the new technique known as molecular-targeted imaging, surgeons are able to get rid of unnecessarily removing the healthy lymph nodes, which are required for patients in the long term. The technique allows enhancing the range of visual field of the surgeons through molecular tool, which allows them to achieve accurate surgical margins as well as detection of the metastases so that there are no tumours left.
Lymph nodes are spread throughout the human body and they act as the filters which contain immune cells for fighting against infections and cleaning the blood. When the cancerous cells break away from the tumour, they travel through this lymph system and eventually take a hideout in these small organs. Surgeons then remove these nodes in order to find out how far the cancer has spread. However, these human nodes, which are actually just half-a-centimetre in size, are very difficult for the surgeons to determine among their surrounding tissues during the surgery.
Besides, even if the surgeons find out the location of these nodes, it is still not possible to detect whether lymph nodes contain the deadly cancer or not. This means that the surgeons end up retrieving more nodes than required.
The research is very important because it enables real-time intra-operative discovery of the cancer metastases in the mice. In the future, it would be possible for the surgeons to find out and stage the cancer which has actually spread to the lymph nodes of the patients, by making use of the molecules which were designed as well as developed at the UC San Diego.
These fluorescently- labeled molecules are called Ratiometric Activatable Cell-Penetrating Peptides (RACPP) and they are injectable. The researchers used these molecules in the mouse-models and it was found that the surgeons could detect where cancer has spread actually.