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Lit up COX-2 cancer probe

June 19, 2015 | Henry H. Ong

Visualizing tumors is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence is a promising optical imaging technique due to its sensitivity to specific disease-related molecules. Development of NIR probes that show only tumor and not non-tumor tissues, a common problem with current methods, would be invaluable.

Reporting last month in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, Vanderbilt scientists Jashim Uddin, Ph.D., Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., and colleagues developed a new NIR probe called fluorocoxib C that targets cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). COX-2 is an enzyme found in inflammatory lesions and tumors, but not in most normal tissues.

By imaging a human cancer mouse model, they were able to validate that fluorocoxib C detects tumors that express COX-2 and is exceptionally long-lived. This allowed imaging to be delayed after probe injection, which greatly enhances tumor visibility because of the clearance of fluorocoxib C from tissues that do not express COX-2.

This technique has broad applications in diagnosing, monitoring, and treating patients with cancer.

The research was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants CA128323, CA182850, CA013646 and CA089450.