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Colorful Surgery

September 1, 2008

Surgeons use new infrared imaging technology to illuminate tumors.


A colorful surgical technique….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

During cancer surgery, it can be difficult for surgeons to spot exactly where a tumor ends and healthy tissue begins. But now researchers have developed a way to light up tumors, making surgery much more accurate. John V. Frangioni is a medical oncologist with Harvard Medical School. His team injects chemicals called near-infrared fluorophores into the tissue surrounding the tumor. The fluorophores home in on the tumor with the help of small molecules called ligands. The researchers then shine an invisible infrared light onto the surgical field to excite the fluorophores.

JOHN V. FRANGIONI (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School):
And in order to see those, we have our special camera that sits about two feet above the patient, and we’re able to see any structure that we need to see on the surgical field.

Frangioni thinks the technique could soon revolutionize other types of surgery as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.