A combination of imaging technology and a new drug can help light up lung cancer cells in the body to find hidden stray lung cancer cells.
A preliminary study discovered that the new combination, known as intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI), helped surgeons to improve patient outcomes.
The drug used in IMI is known as OTL38 and is made up of a dye that can be seen by a targeting molecule and a near-infrared light. The molecule helps to target receptors on cancer cells and make them visible using near-infrared light.
Since lung cancer recurs after surgery when some cancer cells are missed, the new imaging technology can help to target and destroy the stray cells. Previous studies have observed that cancer recurs after surgery in about 50% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
Once approved by the FDA, the near-infrared imaging with OTL38 will be a powerful tool that will assist surgeons in improving lung cancer surgery quality significantly.
The study was conducted on non-small cell lung cancer patients from different hospitals who were scheduled for surgeries to remove cancers in suspected locations in the body.
The patients were injected with OTL38 before performing surgeries in three parts of inspection, resection, and specimen check.
After removing cancer in the areas identified by imaging, the surgeons checked for cancers that may have been missed. On finding suspicious lesions in two patients during inspection, the molecular imaging technology was able to locate ten more cancers in seven patients.
During resection, the new technology also located more lesions in 11 patients. The molecular imaging was also able to find microscopic areas of tumor at the edges in 8 patients during the specimen check.
The molecular imaging technique and novel drug improved the surgical outcomes in 26% of lung cancer patients overall. This means the new technology has great potential for finding certain types of lung cancer lesions that are difficult to identify early and has no side effects.
However, the technology may be limited because near-infrared light does not penetrate deep into the body. A clinical trial is underway to verify the findings.