FGS: A Glowing Future for Cancer Surgery


Fluorescence-guided surgery, or FGS, is revolutionizing the way cancer surgeons tackle all kinds of malignant diseases.  This new technology aids surgeons by illuminating or “lighting up” cancer cells, thus helping surgeons identify and remove smaller tumors that could otherwise be missed.  With FGS, for example, surgeons can easily see clusters of breast or ovarian cancer cells as small as one-tenth of a millimeter, as opposed to the earlier average minimal cluster size of 3 millimeters in diameter based on current methods of visual and tactile detection.

With the surge in interest among cancer surgeons, “a glowing new era in cancer surgery may be dawning”, as described in a September 2013 report in Nature Reviews: Cancer.  Using fluorescently labelled markers, the new approach means that “tumours and nerves can be displayed in real time intra-operatively in contrasting pseudocolours, which allows more complete tumour resection [surgical removal] while preserving important structures.

These advances can potentially cause a paradigm shift in cancer surgery, improving patient outcome and decreasing overall health-care costs.” Thanks to FGS, surgeons can spot tumors that are at least 30 times smaller than the smallest they could detect using standard techniques. 

By dramatically improving the detection of the cancer—and literally lighting it up—the removal of cancer is being greatly improved.  The new report comes from two head & neck surgeons out of the  University of California at San Diego, which is based in La Jolla, California.

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Nguyen QT, Tsien RY.  Fluorescence-guided surgery with live molecular navigation – a new cutting edge. Nat Rev Cancer. 2013;13(9):653-62 Smith LG, Nakano I. Fluorescence-guided brain tumor surgery. World Neurosurg. 2012;78(6):559-64. © Copyright 2013,  Photoimmune Discoveries, BV