What a cancer patient wants to know after surgery can be expressed succinctly: “Did you get everything?” Having a confident answer to that question can be difficult, because when they originate or metastasize, tumors are microscopic.
Considerable advances have been made in “targeted therapy” for cancer, but the wealth of information available on the molecular characteristics of cancer cells hasn’t given doctors good tools for detecting cancer during surgery – yet.
Even the much-heralded advent of robotic surgery has not led to clear benefits for prostate cancer patients in the area of long-term cancer control, a recent New York Times article reports.
At Emory and Georgia Tech’s joint department for biomedical engineering, Shuming Nie and his colleagues are developing tools that could help surgeons define tumor margins in human patients.
They’ve already tested dye-studded gold nanoparticles that bind cancer cells in rodents. With the support of a $980,000 “Grand Opportunity” grant from the National Cancer Institute, Nie’s team is planning to move these tools closer to clinical practice.
In the video above, Nie describes how nanoparticles will be visualized with the aid of a pen-like UV lamp.
The focus is on three especially challenging types of cancer: lung, pancreatic and metastatic breast cancer. In an effort to more closely match human patients, nanoparticles will be tested in larger animals — dogs — with spontaneous tumors.
More video footage available here.