Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a pill that makes tumours light up when exposed to infrared light.
The researchers say the concept has been tested and proven effective in mice.
“We overspend $4 billion per year on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers that women would never die from,” said research leader Greg Thurber.
“If we go to molecular imaging, we can see which tumors need to be treated.
“It’s actually based on a failed drug.
“It binds to the target, but it doesn’t do anything, which makes it perfect for imaging.”
The researchers attached a molecule that fluoresces when it is struck with infrared light to the drug.
Then, they gave the drug to mice that had breast cancer, and they saw the tumours light up.
The targeting molecule has already been shown to make it through the stomach unscathed, and the liver also gives it a pass, so it can travel through the bloodstream.
The move could also catch cancers that would have gone undetected.
By providing specific information on the types of molecules on the surface of the tumor cells, physicians can better distinguish between benign and aggressive tumors.
Moreover, using a dye delivered orally rather than directly into a vein also improves the safety of screening.
The researchers say the new pill may outperform mammograms.
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