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Fluorescence-guided surgery helps to find ovarian cancer cells


Summary of story from The Guardian, September 18, 2011

A group of women with ovarian tumours have become the first in the world to have surgery using a procedure that makes cancer light up in the body.

Operations were performed on 10 women as part of the first phase of a clinical trial to evaluate the technique, called fluorescence-guided surgery.

Doctors developed the procedure to help surgeons remove malignant tissue from ovarian cancer patients and reduce the risk of the disease returning months and years later.

The method illuminates cancer cells inside a patient’s body to make it easier for surgeons to spot smaller cancers that can be easily missed, and to help them identify the borders between tumours and the healthy tissues that surround them.

Figures from 2008 show that 6,537 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 4,373 died from the disease, according to Cancer Research UK. The disease is more likely to return if malignant cells remain in the body after surgery.

Many ovarian cancer patients have operations to remove or reduce the size of tumours before they receive other anti-cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.

But distinguishing tumours from healthy tissue can be difficult, with surgeons relying on a combination of feel and appearance to decide what material to remove.

With the new technique, surgeons could spot clusters of cancer cells as small as one tenth of a millimetre across, compared with around 3mm using visual and manual inspections.

Doctors believe it will reduce relapses in the disease, caused by malignant tissue re-growing after patients have had surgery.

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