Shot of contrast makes brain tumors glow

STONY BROOK (US) — A new contrast agent can cause brain tumors to glow, potentially leading to more precise surgery.

The contrast adheres to a molecular marker of medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer, and can be seen by a high-powered optical microscope system, according to a research paper published as a cover story in the December issue of Translational Oncology.



Researchers discovered that using the contrast agent in conjunction with laser-scanning 3D microscopy caused tumors to “glow” with fluorescence at each of the tumor margins. The process enabled the research team to define tumor margins, including residual tumor cells, which could have significant implications for surgical treatment.

The current gold standard for assessing malignancy is biopsy samples. However, this is rarely performed at the tumor margins during resection because of the time required for frozen sections to be prepared and interpreted by a pathologist.

“There is a great need for a noninvasive method to rapidly and accurately visualize residual malignancy to assist surgeons during the tumor resection process, and we think that our research results provides a foundation and approach toward that ultimate goal,” says Jonathan T.C. Liu, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Stony Brook University and the study’s principal investigator.

“We are also developing miniature microscopes, essentially hand-held devices with the same capability for three-dimensional imaging, which are designed to be an intraoperative guidance for neurosurgery,” Liu says.

The team is also working to develop a miniature hand-held confocal microscope for early detection of oral cancers. They believe that microscopy combined with targeted contrast agents could potentially complement current image-guided surgery approaches, such as those with MRI or CT, for resection of brain tumors and other forms of cancer.

Source: Stony Brook University