New technology literally lights up prostate cancer cells during operation

September 2020 Science Willem van Altena
Tumor cells under microscope labeled with fluorescent molecules

Surgically removing a tumour from a prostate cancer patient requires a great degree of skill and precision. If insufficient tissue is removed, traces of the tumour may remain and eventually lead to a recurrence of the cancer. If too much tissue is removed, this can cause damage to healthy tissue and organs. A new imaging technology may provide much needed assistance to oncological surgeons. A special fluorescent dye literally lights up the cancer cells, making it easier to identify and remove them. The specialized Dutch cancer hospital Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (AVL) in Amsterdam has recently begun applying this new technology.

One in five operations

Non-metastasized prostate cancer can be treated in several manners, and a radical prostatectomy is one of the most drastic ones. Despite this, in one out of five operations traces of the tumour remain. Using a fluorescent dye along with a camera that can detect fluorescence could provide a solution. The dye in question is known as OTL78, and it targets the prostate cancer-specific protein PSMA. The dye is administered intravenously briefly before surgery and only colours prostate cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue literally in the dark.

The AVL closely cooperates with the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) and the Leiden university hospital LUMC, which provide both the fluorescent dye OTL78 and the special camera. As early as late 2020 the AVL researchers hope to present results from their research and give an insight into the efficacy of the new procedure.

Prostate cancer in Belgium

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer in Belgian men and the second most common cancer in all Belgians. The Belgian cancer registry states that in 2017 9555 men were diagnosed with the disease. The five year survival is 95.2%, and the disease mostly affects men over 60 years old.

More information

Read the press release from the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital

Visit the page on prostate cancer on the website of the Belgian cancer foundation.