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A glowing marker dye that sticks to prostate cancer cells could help surgeons to remove them in real-time, according to a study led by the University of Oxford.

Surgeons during operation using the glowing dye © Professor Alastair Lamb/University of Oxford

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists, based at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) and the Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre used a fluorescent dye attached to a special marker molecule to give medics a “second pair of eyes” during surgery for prostate cancer.

Twenty-three men with prostate cancer were injected with the marker dye before undergoing prostate removal surgery. The marker dye found areas of cancerous tissue not picked up by the naked eye or other clinical methods.

The dye allowed the surgeons to remove all cancerous tissues - which could reduce the chances of cancer coming back - whilst preserving healthy tissues. Preserving healthy tissues means fewer life-changing side effects after surgery.

The combination of dye and targeting molecule, called IR800-IAB2M, allows surgeons to see the edges of the tumour and identify any clusters of cells that have spread from the tumour into nearby pelvic tissues and lymph nodes. This guides the surgeon to remove all cancerous tissues and preserve healthy areas around the prostate. This substantially reduces the chances that the cancer will come back in future and minimises the possibility of life changing side-effects for the patient after the operation.

The dye and marker molecule work by attaching themselves to a protein called Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA) commonly found on the surface of prostate cancer cells.


Read the full story on the Department of Oncology website.

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