Scientists have discovered a new method of identifying potential cancers this past weekend, with the onset of a chemical drink containing 5-ALA being administered to suspected glioma patients in order to help them distinguish between a brain tumor and healthy cells. The pink glow given off by the chemical allows surgeons to properly identify a possible growth and thereby terminate the malady before it can evolve into full-blown cancer.
As the onset of new medical innovations sweep through the 21st century, it is heartening to see a powerful new technique (which is also as unobtrusive as can be possible) able to pinpoint the exact location of unremitting cell growth in order to solve the problem at a biochemical level before it arises into a structural and biological deformity.
Normally, all cells have a tumor suppressor gene known as p53, which initiates apoptosis (cell death) in cells that do not properly pass through the multiple phases of the cell cycle (such as properly replicating DNA during the S phase), preventing cells from developing into harmful mutations through errors within their genetic sequence.
Since cancerous tissues originate as normal cells that have their p53 suppressor gene switched off, resulting in a cascade of unregulated cell cycle actions that cause an unmitigated growth of cell tissue, it can be difficult to originally identify a particular cluster of cells as potentially cancerous, to begin with.
Current therapy against various cancers includes chemotherapy, which is a nonspecific approach that ends up killing off the tumor cells, but also healthy cells that are constantly dividing and growing in areas such as hair, bone marrow, and skin, which is the reason that side effects of chemotherapy often result in hair loss and sickness of the body.
By being able to identify the specific cells that a patient has as liable to spring into unmediated cell growth and replication, doctors can more effectively treat various forms of cancer without inducing loss of healthy tissue through extreme measures such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the experimental trials of the 5-ALA drink, approximately 99 patients with suspected high-grade gliomas were administered the drug prior to surgery.
Utilizing microscopes, surgeons were then able to identify 85 patients with fluorescent tissue (the marker of the 5-ALA drink) as they operated to eliminate the tumors from their patients' brains, with 81 of those identifications confirmed to be fast-growing cancers by pathological analysis.
A continued approach of these identifications could potentially result in the production of a line of drugs that would be able to identify the p53 suppressor gene, and thereby specifically target those cells that do not have their gene active without compromising the functionality of already healthy growth tissue, leading to a less painful manner of treating cancers in the future.