New fluorescent dyes attracted to cancer cells may revolutionise the way in which brain tumours are diagnosed and treated.

Agents known as CLR1501 and CLR1502 have been shown to able to differentiate potentially malignant growths from normal brain tissue in mice in a study performed by Dr John S. Kuo and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, US.

CLR1501 and CLR1502 are synthetic analogues of alkylphosphocholine (APC) that have been molecularly altered to carry dyes that glow under lights with specific wavelengths. This enables them to ‘illuminate’ cancerous cells, making them readily distinguishable from neighbouring normal tissue, which may help neurosurgeons localise and completely resect brain tumours.

Further research will be needed to assess issues related to dye administration, visualisation, and timing, as well as the optimal technologies for practical use during surgery.

The results of the study were published in the February issue of Neurosurgery, the official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.