TumorGlow™: Lighting the Way in Fluorescent-Guided Surgery at Penn Medicine


In a new video, Penn Medicine thoracic surgeon and clinical researcher, Sunil Singhal, MD, discusses the development of TumorGlow™, an innovative investigational approach to fluorescent-guided, intraoperative cancer resection surgery: Advances in Precision Surgery with Penn Medicine’s TumorGlow™ Technology.

As its name implies, TumorGlow™ makes tumors glow under infrared light — an advantage that provides better localization, increased vascularity for better visualization around the lymph nodes and better margins during surgery to help surgeons combat solid tumor recurrence. At this time, TumorGlow™ is considered an investigational agent, and is not FDA approved. Clinical trials are enrolling, however, in a number of indications. 

Dr. Singhal was inspired to make tumors glow in 2007, after seeing fluorescent star decals on the ceiling of his daughter’s bedroom. “That idea stuck with me, and it became my passion for the next eight years of my life.”

TumorGlow™: A Simple, Safe Adjunct to Cancer Surgery

Intraoperative fluorescent-guided imaging is a beneficial adjunct to a surgeon’s capacities, for several reasons. The process is safe because it does not involve ionizing radiation; the technology is simple to use; and TumorGlow™ permits surgeons to visualize the operative field in real-time. 

The typical process:

  • The patient receives an intravenous, fluorescent contrast tracer a few hours before their scheduled operation.
  • The tracer enters the patient’s system to seek out cancer cells; the dye then accumulates in the tumors. 
  • When the patient goes to surgery, the tumors glow under infrared light. 

Using Fluorescent-Guided Surgery Across Specialties 

Dr. Singhal has championed intraoperative, fluorescent-guided imaging across multiple subspecialties at Penn. “As more and more surgeons became excited about this, a whole cadre of young surgeons really took this up quickly,” he explains. TumorGlow™ has now been evaluated in surgical procedures for brain, urology, ovarian, prostate and renal cancers. It is also being tested in patients with bladder cancer and ENT surgeries. “This little first step has really broadened into a lot of areas. I think that it’s the perfect storm at a place like Penn, where the surgeons get along so well and are so collaborative.”

A case study of a fluorescent image-guided investigation and more details about how surgeons at Penn Medicine are implementing TumorGlow™ technology to prevent cancer recurrence can be found in the Intraoperative Molecular Imaging to Detect Residual Tumor Cells During Lung Cancer Surgery Clinical Briefing (December 2016).

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The Penn Physician Blog is a resource for health care professionals featuring Penn Medicine physicians and their research, innovations, programs and events. 

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