A new technique known as fluorescent imaging is helping doctors spot tumors.
Purdue University scientists invented the procedure. A dye that tracks and glows around cancer cells allows surgeons to see the tumors with a bright fluorescent light.
"Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to see, and this technique allowed surgeons to spot a tumor 30 times smaller than the smallest they could detect using standard techniques," said Philip Low, the Purdue University professor who invented the dye.
"By dramatically improving the detection of the cancer - by literally lighting it up - cancer removal is dramatically improved," he added.
In the future, researchers hope to be able to use the technique for 40 percent of all human cancers.
Low said he and his team plan to work with the Mayo clinic on the next stage of clinical trials. In the meantime, they will continue to work to improve the dye.
"We want to be able to see deeper into the tissue, beyond the surface," Low said in a statement. "Different cancers have tumors with different characteristics, and some branch and wind their way deeper into tissue. We will continue to evolve this technology and make improvements that help cancer patients."
The study results were published Sept. 18 in the journal "Nature Medicine."