Future Tense

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Technology: Fluorescence-Assisted Resection and Exploration System (FLARE)

Manufacturer: Currently licensed by GE Healthcare

Purpose: To aid physicians in determining whether they've removed all of a patient's cancerous tissue and to do so without harming surrounding structures.

Early adopter: Still in clinical trials; however, FLARE has been used to successfully visualize organs and body fluids of mice and map the lymph nodes of pigs, all in real time.

What it does: The portable system, consisting of a near-infrared (NIR) imaging system, a video monitor, and a computer, uses chemical dyes called NIR fluorophores that are designed to target specific structures such as cancer cells when injected into patients. When exposed to NIR light, which is invisible to the human eye, the dyes light up the cancer cells and are shown on a video monitor.

Potential Improvement: More comprehensive surgical removal of breast, prostate, and lung cancer whose tumor boundaries can be difficult to determine at advanced stages.

What's Next: The first human clinical trials began in summer 2008; broader clinical use of the device could occur within five years, the researchers estimate.

Kathryn Mackenzie

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