AsianScientist (Dec. 11, 2018) – Scientists in Japan have developed a rapid and inexpensive way to accurately detect the margins between cancerous and non-cancerous tissue during breast surgery. They report their results in Advanced Science.
Today, breast-conserving surgery is widely used for the treatment of breast cancer. As a result, finding exactly where a tumor ends and where the healthy tissue begins is an important but difficult task for cancer surgeons. Patients hope to keep as much of their healthy breast as possible, but not removing enough of the cancerous tissue can lead to cancer recurrence.
At present, the most popular method for finding boundaries between normal and cancerous tissue is frozen section analysis, which is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. For frozen section analysis, tissues have to be excised and examined during the surgery by a pathologist. It may take as long as half an hour to get a readout on tumor margins.
In this study, researchers led by Professor Shinzaburo Noguchi of Osaka University, Japan, devised a method to clearly identify the boundaries between tumors and normal tissue. Using resected stumps from patients during surgery, they found that the method is both sensitive—it is almost as good as pathological techniques in identifying tumor tissue—and selective, which means that it rarely misidentifies non-tumor tissue as tumors.
The critical component of the method is acrolein, a highly toxic chemical that is generated in tumor cells and other cells undergoing oxidative stress. Previously, the group had developed an azide probe that ‘clicks’ or forms a chemical bond with acrolein. The probe can then be made to glow, thereby highlighting the tumor cells.
The researchers used their probe to analyze tissues in real time from a group of patients. They took 30 samples of cancerous tissue and 30 samples of normal tissue resected from patients during surgery and applied their fluorescence-based acrolein probe to the tissues. They were able to distinguish cancerous tissue from normal tissue with 97 percent accuracy.
“We were quite surprised that the probe could so accurately and rapidly identify tissues. This method seems to have the potential to be a great advance for breast-conserving breast cancer surgery,” said Noguchi.
“We are also excited that our system has been able to identify other types of cancer cells as well. In the current study we focused on breast cancer, which has a high prevalence, and we are planning to move it into clinical trials,” added Dr. Katsunori Tanaka of RIKEN, Japan, whose team developed the probe.
Source: RIKEN; Photo: Shutterstock.
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