The researchers evaluated the ability of a hand-held Raman scanner, guided by surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) nanoparticles, to identify the microscopic tumor extent in a genetically engineered RCAS/tv-a glioblastoma mouse model.
Moritz F. Kircher and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center point out that malignant brain tumors, particularly the kind known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), are among the toughest to beat. Although relatively rare, GBM is highly aggressive, and its cells multiply rapidly. Surgical removal is one of the main weapons doctors have to treat brain tumors. The problem is that currently, there's no way to know if they have taken out all of the cancerous cells. And removing extra material "just in case" isn't a good option in the brain, which controls so many critical processes. The techniques surgeons have at their disposal today are not accurate enough to identify all the cells that need to be excised. So Kircher's team decided to develop a new method to fill that gap.
The researchers used a handheld device resembling a laser pointer that can detect "Raman nanoprobes" with very high accuracy. These nanoprobes are injected the day prior to the operation and go specifically to tumor cells, and not to normal brain cells. Using a handheld Raman scanner in a mouse model that mimics human GBM, the researchers successfully identified and removed all malignant cells in the rodents' brains. Also, because the technique involves steps that have already made it to human testing for other purposes, the researchers conclude that it has the potential to move readily into clinical trials. Surgeons might be able to use the device in the future to treat other types of brain cancer, they say.