Revolutionary Technique Enhances Cancer Surgery

Oxford University researchers have developed a glowing dye that highlights prostate cancer cells, promising more effective surgical removal. In a trial involving 23 patients, the dye identified cancerous tissue invisible to the naked eye, including cells that had spread to nearby pelvic tissues and lymph nodes. This innovation allows surgeons to remove more cancer while preserving healthy tissue, reducing the risk of recurrence and side effects like erectile dysfunction.

A special type of fluorescent dye might help surgeons better locate and remove prostate cancer cells, UK scientists from University of Oxford believe. Reported in several sources including the BBC,  getting rid of all of the cancer is vital to cut the risk of it coming back.The glowing dye attaches to a protein found only on the cancer cells. In a small, early trial on 23 men, surgeons say it helped them find areas of cancerous tissue not picked up by the naked eye or other clinical methods.A larger trial is now planned, funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Key Findings and Benefits

Professor Freddie Hamdy, the study’s lead author, stated, “We are giving the surgeon a second pair of eyes to see where the cancer cells are and if they have spread. It’s the first time we’ve managed to see such fine details of prostate cancer in real-time during surgery.” The technique involves a dye and a targeting molecule that attach to Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA), a protein found on prostate cancer cells. This approach, developed with ImaginAb Inc., uses a “minibody” to bind exclusively to PSMA.

Trial Results and Future Applications

In the early-stage ProMOTE trial, patients received the fluorescent dye before robot-assisted radical prostatectomy. The imaging system, developed by Professor Borivoj Vojnovic’s team, made cancer cells glow under special lighting. The dye identified cancer clusters not visible to the naked eye, enhancing surgical precision. Published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, the study suggests that this technique could be adapted for other cancers by changing the targeting protein.

 Ongoing Clinical Testing

Further clinical testing is underway to compare this technique with existing methods in larger patient groups. Hamdy believes this innovation will significantly improve patient outcomes, stating, “We want patients to leave the operating theatre knowing that we have done everything possible to eradicate their cancer and give them the best quality of life afterwards.”

Case Study: David Butler’s Journey

David Butler, 77, was one of the trial participants. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, a PSMA PET scan revealed his cancer had spread. He underwent surgery using the glowing dye technique in January 2019. Despite a stroke shortly after surgery, Butler has fully recovered and remains cancer-free five years later. Reflecting on his experience, he said, “If you’re not positive, life will come up and bite you, so you’ve got to enjoy every moment. I am a very lucky man to have had the life I’ve had.”

This innovative technique offers new hope for prostate cancer patients, aiming to improve surgical outcomes and quality of life.

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