Breast cancer in a new light: Injection makes cancer cells glow, easier for doctors to see

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Caroline Balchunas


Lowcountry doctors are seeing breast cancer in a new light. New technology—an injection—is making cancer easier to spot and easier to treat.

Before undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, patients receive an injection. The formula creates chemical reaction, which illuminates the bad cancer cells.

Last week, Dr. Paul Baron, a surgical oncologist with Roper St. Francis began clinical trials using this new injection. He said it takes much of the surgical judgement out of the equation, showing exactly where the cancer has spread.

“You shine a special camera on it and it causes the tumor to glow,” Baron said. “It will help you gauge how much breast tissue to take out and take out just the tumor with just the right amount of tissue to get clear margins.”

He said it could cut down on the number of surgeries a person undergoes.

Less than two months ago, Robin Thomas was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, news she never thought she’d hear.

“One of my best friends was diagnosed at 39 and died at 40, she had stage four,” Thomas said. “Now I understand, I understand what she was going through.”

On Friday, Thomas was recovering comfortably in her West Ashley home. One week ago, she was in Baron’s operating room, one of the first Roper St. Francis patients part of the new clinical trial.

Baron said Thomas’s willingness to try something new will be integral to the research which will hopefully help others battling cancer in the future.

“This is the first foray into this in the hopes that this could eventually be used for other types of cancers that are primarily treated with localized surgery,” Baron said.

Baron said he hopes to try this on 20 patients by the end of the month.