Intra-operative imaging in prostate and cervical cancer surgery using fluorescently-labelled nanobodies

Project Details


Prostate cancer is, with an incidence of 27%, the most common cancer among men in Belgium. Invasive cervical cancer occurs less frequently, but still remains common in women.1 When diagnosed at an early stage, standard curative treatment often consists of radical prostatectomy or radical hysterectomy.2,3 However, during such complex surgeries it is difficult for the surgeon to differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissues, which can lead to incomplete resections. Furthermore, complications and impaired intestinal, urinary and sexual function occur frequently in surgical procedures of the pelvic area, due to nerve damage caused during surgery.4
Fluorescence imaging is an emerging technology that can provide real-time information about the operating field during cancer surgery. A recent trend is the usage of this fluorescence imaging during surgery, which is a real- time, sensitive, contact-free, relatively cheap, and non-ionizing technique that can easily be implemented within the surgical routine. Fluorescence imaging can provide anatomical, functional or molecular information after administration of a fluorescent contrast agent, either through direct real-time imaging of the surgical field, or by intra-operative optical specimen mapping.5
Adding the use of real-time intra-operative fluorescence-guided imaging can aid the surgeon in deciding which tissues to resect and which to preserve and is expected to result in great progress towards more precise and complete surgeries with less postoperative complications. Such a personalized surgical treatment would benefit the patient’s survival rates, quality of life and lower the health care costs.
Within this project and under the supervision of Prof. Hernot and Prof. Devoogdt (VUB), I aim to design novel fluorescent contrast agents, based on the nanobody (Nb)-technology, that can literally ‘light up’ specific tissues- of-interest, i.e. prostate and cervical tumor lesions, as well as nerves. After complete in vitro characterization and in vivo investigation of the pharmacokinetic profile of the Nbs, the feasibility and advantage of their use will be demonstrated during experimental surgery in mice and/or pigs. This step will be performed in collaboration with surgeons of the UZBrussel (Prof. Phillipe De Sutter)/UZGhent and with the faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Prof. Alex Mottier, Ghent University).
Effective start/end date1/10/1931/10/19

Flemish discipline codes

  • Clinical genetics and molecular diagnostics


  • Prostate cancer