Development of Molecular Probes for Use in Fluorescence Image Guided Cancer Surgery

Student: Alex Mellott, 2016-2017

Sponsor: Prof. Brad Smith, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Notre Dame, IN

Surgery is the first and most effective line of defense in fighting cancer. Each year there are five million cancer surgeries that take place worldwide. These surgeries involve using invasive and minimally invasive surgical techniques to resection tumors and cancerous tissue. Despite the effectiveness of this treatment, these surgeries present many challenges for the surgical oncologist. These challenges include identifying cancer tumors, characterizing tumor size/ depth and avoiding damaging healthy tissue during operations. A surgeon’s white light view of tissue does not give him or her a very reasonable way to determine whether or not an area of tissue is a tumor or contains cancerous tissue. The surgeon must decide from medical imaging prior to the operation, palpation, visualization, biopsies during surgery and their judgement to decide if an area of tissue should undergo resection. Surgeons need a better way of viewing cancerous tissue during surgery and fluorescence image guided surgery (FGS) may be the answer. FGS provides surgeons, when under infrared light, the ability to view cancerous cells with the use of fluorescent molecular probes. Bradley Smith has created a probe that can mark cancerous tissue and may be a clinical answer to identifying cancerous tissue in the operating room.