TumorGlow® Technology: More Precisely Detecting Cancerous Tumors During Surgery

What is TumorGlow®?

TumorGlow®, a type of intraoperative molecular imaging, relies on an injectable dye that has been specially engineered to accumulate in cancerous tissues, much more so than normal tissues.

When we illuminate tumors, we brighten the odds for all cancer patients. That's why we're leading the way, investigating a new technique capable of making tumors glow under near-infrared cameras. TumorGlow® technology is engineered to enhance the visibility of undetected tumors-improving outcomes and reducing the odds of follow-up surgery.

At Penn Medicine, we are offering patients the opportunity to enroll in clinical trials where surgeons and oncologists at the Center for Precision Surgery are testing the efficacy of these dyes.

How does TumorGlow® work?

Before surgery, patients are injected with a dye that causes cancer cells that might normally be invisible to CT scans to "glow" under near-infrared light. During surgery, the tumors strongly glow under near-infrared cameras, guiding surgeons to cancerous tissue in areas previously undetected. The results to date have been extraordinary.

"The biggest challenge for thoracic surgeons is finding smaller nodules and making smaller incisions to remove them. When we started using the dye, we could start to see smaller nodules than we ever could before. Now, we can alter our incisions based on the location and type of tumor. We can start making incisions directly over the tumor, whereas, before, we would make some generic decisions." Sunil Singhal, MD

This technique may offer great promise to physicians by allowing for greater precision and accuracy in removing the entire tumor. TumorGlow® would help with early detection of small tumors and hopefully better treatment success for cancer patients.

What are the benefits of TumorGlow®?

glowing tumor

There are two main benefits to using TumorGlow® technology.

The first benefit is that by seeing where the tumor is located, the surgeon can make sure to get the entire tumor - and cancer - out. TumorGlow® may make surgery safer for patients by allowing greater precision, so surgeons only cut out the cancer and nothing else.

Another benefit we have seen is the dye's ability to "find" cancerous lymph nodes. This is especially important because identification of disease in the lymph nodes tells the oncologist that you may need to have more chemotherapy or that your cancer has progressed. This technology may allow us to identify which lymph nodes we should take out and which lymph nodes we should leave in.

Other advantages of TumorGlow® include:

  • Complete resection of tumors with negative margins
  • Reduction in the risk of local recurrence
  • Identification of cancerous lymph nodes
  • Introduction of optical biopsies, or real-time diagnostics, in the operating room
  • More accurate staging
  • Early detection of pre-cancerous disease
  • Minimization of unnecessary tissue removal
  • Shortened hospital stays
  • Increase on positive outcomes

Are you a candidate?

Currently, we are accepting brain tumor patients for a TumorGlow ® clinical trial.

To be considered for the trial, you must:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Have a solid tumor presumed to be resectable cancer and are at risk for local recurrence on pre-operative assessment
  • Be a good operative candidate as determined by the treating physician and multidisciplinary team
  • Be capable of giving informed consent and participating in the process of consent

You may not be accepted if you:

  • Are pregnant, as determined by urinary or serum beta hCG within 72 hours of surgery
  • Have a history of iodide allergies
  • Are part of a vulnerable population (i.e., someone who could be easily lost to follow-up or are unable to participate in the consent process)

We have conducted many TumorGlow ® studies in the past with other cancer patients. Although they are not available at this time, we are consistently opening up new trials for additional cancer types, such as:

Although TumorGlow® has already shown positive results for cancer patients who were enrolled in clinical trials, this technology is still investigational and may not be right for every person.

To find out if you are a qualified candidate, discuss the following eligibility criteria with your doctor or speak with a Penn Medicine clinical trial navigator by calling 855-216-0098 (available 9 am to 5 pm EST, Monday through Friday).

Learn more about clinical trials