Penn Medicine researchers are fighting cancer with color. Working with colleagues at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, surgeons have developed a way to make lung cancer flash neon green for better visibility during surgery. The procedure works by injecting patients with an FDA-approved dye 24 hours before surgery. The properties of the dye cause it to bind to receptors on cancerous tumors, causing them to fluoresce neon green under infrared light or near-infrared imaging.
The glow allows surgeons to remove the tumors they can see with the naked eye and feel with their hands, but also those that may be too small or too far below the surface of the lung to view or feel. The team’s latest study tested the procedure in 18 patients. “We were thrilled to find that the dye allowed us to identify and remove five additional tumors that we did not know were there,” said Sunil Singhal, MD, director of the Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratory. “By removing these we were able to prevent a local cancer recurrence and also reduced these patients’ chances of developing metastatic disease.”