If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Analytical Chemistry

Glowing Tumors Guide Surgeons

Researchers develop sprayable indicator for lighting up cancer cells

by Lauren K. Wolf
November 28, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 48

Credit: Sci. Transl. Med.
Scheme shows how a new fluorescent indicator, a caged gamma-glutaml hydroxymethyl rhodamine green compound, can be used to light up cancer tumors
Credit: Sci. Transl. Med.

Doctors might one day remove cancerous tumors with the help of a spray-on fluorescent indicator, according to a report (Sci. Transl. Med., DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002823). Within minutes of being sprayed, cancer cells in suspect tissue would emit fluorescent light, guiding surgeons to the locations of malignancies. Although other fluorescent probes are in development for surgery, the new indicator acts more quickly and can be applied on the spot. Hisataka Kobayashi of the U.S.’s National Cancer Institute, Yasuteru Urano of Japan’s University of Tokyo, and coworkers demonstrated that their indicator, a caged γ-glutamyl hydroxy­methyl rhodamine green compound, lit up tumors in mice with ovarian cancer within 90 seconds of being applied. The probe is nonfluorescent until it comes into contact with cancer cells, many of which overexpress the enzyme γ-glutamyl­trans­peptidase on their surfaces. The enzyme uncages the indicator by cleaving the glutamate group, causing it to fluoresce.

Credit: Yasuteru Urano
In this video, fluorescent indicator is applied to the abdominal cavity of a mouse with ovarian cancer while Hisataka Kobayashi describes the guided removal of tumors.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.