In this presentation, Dr. Quyen Nguyen demonstrated and discussed how a molecular marker can make tumors light up in neon green, showing surgeons exactly where to cut.
In this fascinating conversation, Dr. Nguyen talked about the surgeons’ special relationship with light: They need lights in order to perform operations. In ancient time, skylight was important. In modern time, operating rooms have specialized lights which mimic natural lights.
This ‘relationship’ with lights brought the surgeons to other kinds of lights – lights that can allow them to see what they currently don’t see. Dr. Nguyen is talking about the magic of fluorescence light and how it can be used to color code organs, nerves and rumors in order to assist in surgery.
She has demonstrated several cases, from cancer tumors that turn florescent green, to nerves that turn florescent white. The tool for identifying cancer tumors is a protein molecule, developed by Dr. Roger Chen (who went on to win the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2008) and his team, that when injected into the veins of someone who has cancer, the cancer parts will be lit up with green fluorescent color. With the help of Dr. Chen and his team, Dr. Nguyen discovered another protein molecule that turns nerves to florescent white. These molecules help guide surgeons in what to destroy and what to preserve.
The Cancer Journal for Clinicans statistics for 2011 put Cancer as one of the most major public health problems in the United States and many other parts of the world with one in 4 deaths in the United States is due to cancer. Many of us are either cancer patients or have family members or friends with cancer and we know how difficult or impossible it is to get rid of it even with multiple surgeries. This is because the surgeons never know what they have to remove and whether they have removed enough. In addition, the cost for chemotherapy, drugs and cosmetic surgeries post cancer surgeries can be horrendous. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five patients is not able to get necessary cancer treatment in time or at all because of the high cost. Imagine with this technology, the surgery will be so précised and much more affordable that more lives will be saved. Imagine with this technology, molecules can be used as a vehicle to deliver drugs directly to the cancer cells. That's even better than surgery! Imagine with improvement, they can invent different colors for different types of cancer so that treatment can be done even more precisely and more effectively!
In the final note, Dr. Nguyen leaves us with the following final thought:
“Successful Innovation is not a single break through. It’s not a sprint. It’s not an event for a solo performer. It’s a team sport, it’s a relay race. It requires one team for the breakthrough and another team to get the breakthrough accepted and adopted. And this takes the long term steady courage of the day in day out struggle to educate, to persuade and to win acceptance.”
In the comments section, one has left his final thought:
“This is presented in a very humble way.
But to me this is ground breaking.
It made me physically shake.”
And I concur!