A real-time surgical imaging system (top) displays live video. Image produced by the new system (bottom) shows a pig’s hind leg after injection of a contrast agent.
Many cancer patients leave surgery still harboring dangerous tumor cells, while others suffer painful aftereffects because a surgeon has removed too much healthy tissue or nicked a nerve. A new imaging system that highlights cancerous tissue in lurid colors should help surgeons remove every last trace of cancer without harming the surrounding tissue. The system, currently in early clinical trials, uses a new class of contrast agents that emit near-infrared light and can attach to virtually any kind of tissue, cancerous or a healthy–showing surgeons just where to cut.