A study presented at the American Chemical Society’s 251st National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, California states that scientists from the University of Michigan have created an oral pill that lights up cancerous tumours allowing doctors to detect them with ease. The pill can improve breast cancer screening by lighting up tumours and helping the doctors to distinguish between the cancerous and benign growths.
At present, breast cancer screening methods are less effective as often the identified lumps cannot be verified between cancerous and benign growths. This often leads to unnecessary and aggressive treatments in patients. X–ray, which is the standard screening method, provides doctors with information about the lump’s size and location but it cannot distinguish between the malignant and benign tumours. Thereafter, biopsy, a surgical procedure is conducted to find out whether the lump is cancerous or not. Biopsies are not 100% conclusive and upon detection of malignant tumours, doctors and patients opt for treatments ranging from surgery to radiation and chemotherapy which can take months and can cause severe side effects.
The new pill, on the other hand, contains an imaging agent that selectively binds to cancer cells or blood vessels that are unique to tumours. Once attached, the imaging agent lights up under near the infrared light. When tested on mice with proper formulation, about 50% to 60% of the agent got absorbed in the bloodstream. Thereafter, the tumour cells lit up in the fluorescent light. Scientists are working towards developing an oral pill for humans that should do away with the X–rays.