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New surgery technique 'lights up' cancer cells

A method of detecting malignant cells by highlighting them with glowing molecules has helped surgeons to identify cancerous tissue measuring just one-tenth of a millimetre across.

Library photo posed by models
Library photo posed by models
Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

DOCTORS HOPE TO improve cancer survival rates by using a new technique for spotting malignant cells – lighting them up with a special dye.

The new procedure, named fluorescence-guided surgery, helps surgeons to identify cancerous tissue measuring just one-tenth of a millimetre across – a size that was previously undetectable.

Surgeons have started clinical trials using the new technique by performing operations on a group of women suffering from ovarian cancer, the Guardian reports. With the help of the dye, surgeons were able to spot cancerous cells more easily and better distinguish between healthy and unhealthy tissue.

Doctors believe that the new technique will help to prevent relapses of the disease as much more malignant tissue can be removed from the body.

Inventor of the new technology, Philip Low at Purdue University in Indiana said that ovarian in cancer was “notoriously difficult” to detect during surgery, reports News.scotsman.com. “This technique allowed surgeons to spot a tumour 30 times smaller than the smallest they could detect using standard techniques,” he said.

Researchers employed the method by attaching a fluorescent label to a modified form of folic acid, which then bonded to ovarian cancer cells, reports Press Association.

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The findings have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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