UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center scientists next month will begin testing a digital nanosensor that lights up cancer tissue to see whether it can improve the accuracy of cancer surgeries, thereby reducing cancer recurrence and surgical morbidity.
The nanosensor, which works by reacting to low pH, illuminates cancer like a lightbulb, sharply distinguishing cancerous tissue from healthy tissue, and making it easier for surgeons to remove cancer cells while leaving healthy, functional tissue intact.
"We synthesized an imaging probe that stays dark in normal tissues but switches on in solid tumors, behaving like a digital sensor with binary readouts between the two states," said Dr. Jinming Gao, Professor of Pharmacology and Otolaryngology with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, which is recognizing its 75th anniversary this year. "Cancer is a diverse set of diseases, but it does have some universal features. As solid tumors ramp up, they eat more glucose and secrete lactic acid, so the microenvironment around the cancer cells is acidic."
"This new digital nanosensor-guided surgery has several advantages for patients, including more accurate removal of tumors and greater preservation of normal tissue. These advantages can limit the extent of surgery and improve quality of life and, potentially, patient survival," said Dr. Sumer, who leads the Head and Neck Oncology team at the Simmons Cancer Center.