Cancer glasses help doctors find cancer, could get FDA approval

A pair of glasses that can actually see cancer cells might soon be getting FDA approval.

Sandy Sagitto, an avid biker, was on vacation in Miami, Fla. when she found a lump in her right breast.
"I mean. I could feel it. It was there."

A diagnosis of breast cancer crushed Sagitto and left her in denial.

"I have no family history. I have no risk factors," she says.

Fear gave way to hope when Sagitto learned her surgeon would be wearing special eye-wear during her operation.

"It`s like, wow! We have Superman glasses," she says.

The Superman glasses, known simply as cancer goggles, work with an infrared light that help doctors see cancer when a patient's malignant tumors are injected with a dye which makes them glow.

"What the goggles are really doing is they are helping me to see the fluorescence that we've marked or tagged to a specific marker that is taken up by the cancer cells," explains Dr. Julie Margenthaler. She was the first surgeon to use the space-age device on a breast cancer patient to determine whether it works. It does.

"I can see things very clearly," she says.

When Margenthaler wore the goggles during Sagitto's procedure, she wanted to know if they could identify margins around tumors and lymph nodes.  

"Which ultimately did confirm some microscopic tumor extensions at those edges so that was very exciting to us that we were able to see down to that level of detail," Margenthaler says. "We would not have been able to see that without the goggles."

The cutting edge eyewear has been used successfully in the fight against other cancer, too.

Dr. Ryan fields used the glasses during surgery on a patient with skin cancer.

"It's an incredible piece of technology I think has a lot of opportunity to improve on what we do in the operating room," he says.

Dr. Samuel Achilefu, a professor of radiology at Washington University, invented the cancer goggles. They are much smaller and lighter now than the heavy, clunky design originally created.

"It should be simple. It should be easy. It should have low learning curve that we do not need to retrain the surgeon on what they already know how to do," Dr. Achilefu says.

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