Mammograms have become extremely useful in identifying suspect lesions that may be cancer, but biopsies are still required to actually find out whether the tissue is cancerous.
Researchers at University of Michigan have developed a molecule, which can be delivered in pill form, that connects to cell surface receptors on certain types of cancer cells. The molecule has a fluorescent component on it, so when it’s illuminated with infrared light, it itself glows in response. This may allow the technique to be particularly useful in breast cancer, and potentially overcoming mammograms altogether by providing both imaging and diagnosis in one step.
One major achievement of the project was developing a particle that would end up in the blood system following delivery via a pill and that it would fluoresce well enough to be seen.
Here’s a University of Michigan video about the project: