Vitamin Makes Tumors Light Up for Removal
A Utah chemist and a surgeon have teamed up to develop a way to make cancer, anywhere in the body, glow! With that kind of illumination, surgeons will be able to see precisely where a tumor begins, where it ends, and how much to remove.
Glowing blue tissue causes cancer to be clearly identified. Enhance it with a light, as a surgeon would do, and it glows red. What's really neat about this new development is the stuff that actually makes the tumor glow. It's a derivative of vitamin B-12, very effective in identifying the cancer, but harmless to the patient.
Dr. James Grissom, University of Utah Dept. of Chemistry: "All types of cancers need vitamin B-12 to replicate so tumors take up more vitamin B-12 than normal tissue."
How much? Compared to the miniscule six micrograms normal cells take in daily, tumors need hundreds of times that amount. So they suck it all in, glowing conspicuously, no longer able to hide from the surgeon's knife.
James McGreevy, M.D., University of Utah Surgeon: "We're actually hoping that with this fluorescent, if we can see the edge and go beyond it, that we can ensure that we can get the whole tumor out, regardless of what the tumor is."
James McGreevy is a flight surgeon in Iraq, who will soon end his tour there and resume his duties at University Hospital. He and Charles Grissom, a U of U chemist, came up with the glowing compound. Together the two have formed a spinoff company.
Combine this vitamin B-12 luminator with the development of instruments that could be used along with conventional laproscopic tools and you've given surgeons a new way to seek out and destroy these cancerous villains.
Pending FDA approval, human clinical trials on patients, say with breast cancer, could be just around the corner.
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