Bringing Cancer Into the Light

LUM015 injection illuminates cancer cells, may assist in tumor removal

(RxWiki News) Detecting cancer in surgery may have just gotten a whole lot easier.

Researchers from Duke University School of Medicine (DUSM) have now tested a first-of-its-kind injectable agent on cancer patients undergoing tumor removal surgery. The agent, LUM015, is designed to illuminate cancer cells during surgery — potentially increasing a surgeon's ability to locate and remove an entire tumor on the first try.

When operating on a cancerous tumor, a surgeon should ideally remove 100 percent of the tumor during the patient's first operation. But in some cases, tumors are extremely small and hard to detect. In these cases, a second surgery or radiation therapy is sometimes required.

Surgeons currently rely on MRIs and CT scans to guide them as they remove tumors and surrounding tissues, but these methods aren't always accurate. With LUM015, the idea is that cancer cells would glow and reveal themselves to surgeons.

"The goal is to give surgeons a practical and quick technology that allows them to scan the tumor bed during surgery to look for any residual fluorescence," said senior study author David Kirsch, MD, PhD, a professor of radiation oncology and cancer biology at DUSM, in a press release.

In a new study, Dr. Kirsch and colleagues reported that LUM015 successfully identified cancerous tissue in 15 patients undergoing surgery for soft-tissue sarcoma or breast cancer — without any adverse effects.

This technology, which was developed by a team of researchers from DUSM, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Lumicell Inc., isn't the first agent developed to help surgeons better visualize cancer. But it is the first to be tested for safety in humans.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are currently testing the safety and effectiveness of LUM015 on 50 women with breast cancer.

This study was published Jan. 6 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Advancing Translational Science funded this research.

Study author W. David Lee is the CEO of Lumicell Inc., a company that is currently marketing LUM015. Several other authors disclosed financial ties to Lumicell Inc. or LUM015 itself.

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Review Date: 
January 5, 2016