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At the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), we are actively engaged in a myriad of dental and cancer research, ranging from therapeutic treatments to optical imaging during surgery.

glowing tumorsUAB is currently the site of a phase II clinical trial centered on the implementation of antibody targeted fluorescence imaging to localize to and induce florescence in tumors. This is a useful tool during transoral robotic surgery (TORS) when surgeons are only able to examine cancer on through a camera. The antibody targeted fluorescence agent is called panitumumab-IRDye800.

Panitumumab is a monoclonal antibody for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) which makes up the targeting portion of the agent. The over-expression of EGFR in oral squamous cell carcinoma, compared to normal tissue, is used to target the cancer. IRDye800 is the fluorescent portion of the agent that emits energy in the near-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Consequently, the human eye cannot directly detect the tumor’s florescence, but the camera integrated into the TORS robot can detect and visually translate the tumor for the surgeon.

Intuitive’s XI Davinci, the TORS robot used during these operations, allows for the surgeon to operate in a non-invasive fashion. What traditionally required a mandibulotomy to operate on tumors can be accomplished using the arms of the robot to excise the tumor.

Story originally published in Vol I, Fall 2023 LSRG at UAB, a newsletter of the UAB Local Student Research Group Logan Stone is a current D.A.R.T. in the lab of Hope Amm, Ph.D.