Patients who undergo mesothelioma surgery hope to wake up with most, if not all, of their tumors removed. However, a cancer-free result often isn’t achieved due to how difficult it can be to locate every mesothelioma tumor, especially microscopic ones.

This reality means people who undergo an initial cancer-removal surgery often need a second procedure to find residual tumors.

New imaging technology could address this issue for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

According to a report on the website Business Wire, Lumicell, Inc.’s in vivo imaging system is the focus of a feasibility study underway at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The project is testing the technology’s effectiveness in helping surgeons residual cancer cells that otherwise may go undetected during mesothelioma surgery. These leftover cancer cells either originated or metastasized into the peritoneum and, with the help of the technology, could also be removed during the same surgical procedure.

In addition to peritoneal mesothelioma, this test could help patients with cancers of the ovarian, appendiceal or gastrointestinal, meaning it could benefit thousands of people.


Why Peritoneal Mesothelioma Is Difficult to Entirely Remove

Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the peritoneum, which is a thin, protective membrane that lines the abdominal cavity (which includes visceral organs such as the liver, diaphragm and intestines). Researchers estimate that peritoneal mesothelioma comprises between 10% and 15% of all mesothelioma cases.

The primary treatment method for peritoneal mesothelioma is cytoreductive surgery combined with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Cytoreductive surgery is intended to remove all or most of the macroscopic (visible) peritoneal cancer tumors. Following the procedure, patients undergo HIPEC, also called “heated chemotherapy.” Doctors use HIPEC to prevent the growth of and eventually eliminate the microscopic cancer cells.

While HIPEC is effective as a follow-up treatment to cytoreductive surgery, there is a high possibility of recurrence for mesothelioma patients. This discouraging reality is due to how easily mesothelioma cancer cells can survive treatment. For this reason, many patients undergo a second surgery to ensure all tumors are removed.


How Lumicell Imaging Can Help With Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Lumicell’s technology could help surgeons locate these remnant cancer cells during the initial cytoreduction surgery. If a larger percentage of tumors are removed during the first procedure, there are fewer microscopic cells left during HIPEC and less likelihood of any surviving the treatment. Additionally, there is less need for a second mesothelioma surgery.

This study, which is being led by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dr. James Cusack, will compare imaging from the Lumicell system with traditional microscopic imaging. There is a history of success, as recent cancer-related clinical trials used the Lumicell imaging system. According to the Business Wire report, around 225 participants, mostly women with breast cancer, relied on this technology during recent trials. Dr. Barbara Smith, the director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Breast Program and surgery professor at Harvard Medical School, is the lead investigator in these trials. In 2018, she reported promising results from using the imaging system during breast cancer surgery.

“Our study found that the Lumicell imaging system was effective for real-time identification of residual cancer intraoperatively,” she said, adding that she and others are “excited” to learn the results of the peritoneal-based study.

If you have this form of mesothelioma, you may be eligible to participate in one of many clinical trials related to the disease. Contact our registered nurse advocate, Jenna Campagna, at Additionally, you can visit our clinical trial database page for information on the ongoing mesothelioma-related trials.

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    Sources & Author

  1. Feasibility Study Underway to Assess Lumicell Technology for Removing Ovarian and Peritoneal Cancer Tumors During the First Surgery. Business Wire. Retrieved from: Accessed: 04/12/19.
  2. Life Expectancy in Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: Accessed: 04/12/19.
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About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.