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Pill ‘lights up’ breast cancer tumours

breast cancer pill

A new pill can help identify breast cancer early by ‘lighting’ up tumours under near-infrared light, a US study has reported. 

The pill, which has been successfully tested on mice, can distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous growths in the breast.

Targets cancer cells

The tablet, developed by the University of Michigan, contains an imaging agent that binds to cancer cells or blood vessels that are unique to tumours.

After it has been ingested, a near-infrared light is used to make the dye glow. It works to depth of 2cm. 

Another benefit of the pill is that the images are relatively clear, with good definition between cancerous and normal tissue. 

One area the pill couldbe useful is testingwomen who have “dense” breast tissue. In these situations, mammograms can be hard to read. 

The next step for the research team is to develop a similar pill that is suitable for humans. 

Reduce ‘false positive’ diagnoses

It’s also hoped the pill could reduce the number of ‘false positive’ diagnoses, as these can lead to unnecessary aggressive treatments, research lead Dr Greg Thurber said.

Jane Murphy, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, says the pills have “exciting potential” and could hopefully improve the speed and accuracy of a diagnosis. 

She also pointed to the number of unnecessary treatments women go through.

For every life saved through screening, three women undergo unnecessary treatment, she said.

Being able to differentiate between aggressive and slow-growing tumours means this could be avoided.


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