July 12, 2024

New Imaging Technique Shows Promise for Improved Tumor Detection in Cancer Surgeries

A team of researchers from Mass General Brigham has developed a new visualization tool that has the potential to improve the accuracy of tumor detection and removal in cancer surgeries. The tool, called fluorescence lifetime (FLT) imaging, uses high-speed cameras and fluorescent injection to distinguish tumor tissue from normal tissue across various types of cancer. In a study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the team reported that the technique was over 97 percent accurate in identifying tumor tissue and has the potential to revolutionize solid tumor surgery.

Traditionally, surgeons have had to rely on their eyes and hands to determine where to cut during tumor removal, often resulting in the removal of healthy tissue along with the tumor. However, the FLT imaging technology offers a more precise method for tumor detection. By injecting a dye called indocyanine green (ICG) into the patient before surgery, the high-speed cameras can detect changes in the light emitted by tissue, allowing for the accurate identification of tumor tissue with a longer fluorescence lifetime compared to normal tissue.

The team evaluated the technique using specimens from more than 60 patients with various types of cancer who underwent surgery. The results showed that the FLT imaging was accurate in distinguishing tumor tissue from healthy tissue across different tumor types, including liver, brain, tongue, skin, bone, and soft tissue. It also demonstrated the ability to distinguish between benign and metastatic lymph nodes. Overall, the technique was over 97 percent accurate in tumor identification.

Dr. Mark Varvares, the chief of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Mass Eye and Ear, expressed his excitement about the potential of this technology in improving surgical outcomes for cancer patients. He believes that by combining advanced imaging techniques with the use of dyes like ICG, surgeons will be able to remove all malignant cells during tumor surgery while sparing normal tissue. This not only enhances postoperative function but also improves the patient’s appearance in some cases.

Although ICG is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other purposes, it is not yet approved for clinical use as a tumor marking agent. The researchers plan to conduct a larger scale clinical trial to further test the safety and efficacy of FLT imaging with ICG for tumor identification during surgeries. They hope that their findings will bring them closer to making this new imaging technique available for clinical use, thus improving the lives of cancer patients.

The development of FLT imaging represents a significant advancement in the field of tumor detection and removal. By providing surgeons with a more accurate and precise tool for identifying tumor tissue, this technology has the potential to greatly improve surgical outcomes and reduce the need for additional treatments. Further research and clinical trials will be necessary to fully validate the effectiveness and safety of FLT imaging, but the initial results are promising. With continued advancements in medical technology, we may soon see this new imaging technique becoming a standard practice in cancer surgeries.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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