Near-infrared dye helps doctors spot cancer

You can't normally see it, but this dye can detect hard-to-find tumors.

Doctors regularly use dyes to highlight blood vessels that would normally be hard to see, but there's now the possibility that they'll use those chemicals to find cancer, too. Stanford researchers have developed a medical dye that emits light at a near-infrared wavelength, which produces sharper images that are visible at deeper skin layers. That, in turn, would let health care workers detect near-the-surface tumors such as breast cancer and melanoma. It leaves the body within a day, so you wouldn't have to worry about any long-term effects.

There's a lot of testing ahead before the dye is ready for human patients. Once it's ready, though, it could prove to be an invaluable surgical tool. Rather than operate based on a single scan that took hours to process, surgeons could get a real-time view of where tumors are located. If all goes well, doctors would be more likely to reduce or eliminate cancer by cutting it out.