imaging method to improve tumour removal

A group of scientists have developed a new imaging method to improve tumour removal during surgery, which would reduce the chance of local tumor recurrence.


The current standard for tumour imaging are MRIs and CT scans, however a team of scientists at Duke University Medical Center, in collaboration with MIT and Lumicell Inc., have been working on a new imaging method to improve tumour removal. This novel method is based on a probe that fluoresces, allowing the surgeon to see all of the tumor cells, reducing the risk of leaving any tumour tissue behind and therefore reducing the risk of tumour regrowth.

Exploiting the fact that tumour cells produce a greater amount of the protease cathepsin when compared with normal cells, the probe was designed to be activated by cathepsin. The activation and thus fluorescence of the probe (called LUM015) allows surgeons to better view tumour tissue, and therefore less likely to leave any behind. The probe was tested in a mouse model of cancer in addition to 15 patients who were undergoing surgery for either soft tissue sarcoma or breast cancer. The trial was able to demonstrate that there was, in fact, greater fluorescence of the probe within tumour tissue, compared with normal tissue in these patients.

The researchers state that not only is this the first protease-activated probe to be successful in human trials, but that the study results provide support for further clinical trials using the LUM015 probe.





Whitley MJ, Cardona, DM, Lazarides, AL, Spasojevic, I, Ferrer, JM, Cahill, J, Lee, C-L, Snuderl, M, Blazer, DG, Hwang, ES, Greenup, RA, Mosca, PJ, Mito, JK, Cuneo, KC, Larrier, NA, O’Reilly, EK, Riedel, RF, Eward, WC, Strasfeld, DB, Fukumura, D, Jain, RK, Lee, WD, Griffith, LG, Bawendi, MG, Kirsch, DG, Brigman, BE. “A mouse-human phase 1 co-clinical trial of a protease-activated fluorescent probe for imaging cancer” Science Translational Medicine  06 Jan 2016: Vol. 8, Issue 320, pp. 320ra4







Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD


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