Researchers have developed a compound that illuminates live cancer cells, enabling the spread of breast cancer cells in mice to be tracked using an endoscope. While fluorescent compounds for cancer detection have been developed before, such substances continue to fluoresce after diffusing to new locations, making it difficult to differentiate live tumour cells from healthy tissue or dead tumour cells.
The researchers created the compound for detecting breast cancer by fusing a fluorescent compound with the drug Herceptin, a genetically engineered antibody that targets breast cancer cells. Using another cancer drug known as Zenapax, the team developed a separate compound that could be used to track ovarian cancer tumours. The researchers expect that other compounds also can be developed to target other types of cancer cells.
“These compounds may allow clinicians to monitor a patient’s response to cancer therapy by allowing them to visualize whether a drug hits its target and whether hitting the target leads to shrinkage of the tumour,” explains Hisataka Kobayashi of the US National Cancer Institute, who led the study along with scientists from the University of Tokyo. “Our design concept is very versatile and can be used to detect many types of cancer,” Kobayashi says. “Unlike other activatable fluorescent compounds, our compound consists of a targeting agent and a fluorescing agent that act independently,” he adds.
More information on the research is available at US National Institutes of HealthBrian Buntz