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

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in Belgium. Invasive cervical cancer occurs less frequently, but remains a common cancer in women. When diagnosed at early stage, standard curative treatment consists of the surgical removal of the whole prostate or uterus, as well as the surrounding affected tissue to prevent relapse of the cancer. However, during such complex surgeries it is often difficult for the surgeon to differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissues, which can lead to incomplete resections. Furthermore, nearby nerves can be damaged, resulting in complications such as incontinence and erectile disorders. The use of fluorescence imaging, which could aid the surgeon to decide in real-time which tissues to resect and which to preserve, is expected to result in a more precise and complete surgery, with less postoperative complications. To perform fluorescence-guided surgery it is imperial to use a tracer compound to highlight the tumor tissue in real-time. These traces have to bind specifically to the tumor tissue and will show a fluorescent signal under a fluorescence camera. However, if only a fluorescent signal is used it is hard to find deeper lesions, due to the limited signal penetration in the tissue. Therefore, the addition of a radioactive label to the tracer would allow for real-time gamma probe tracing of deeper lesions due to the augmented tissue penetration obtained through the radioisotope. Thus, within this project and under the supervision of Prof. Hernot and Prof. Devoogdt (VUB), I aim to design novel fluorescent and bimodal contrast agents, based on the nanobody-technology, to highlight specifically prostate and cervical tumor lesions as well as peripheral nerves. After complete in vitro characterization and in vivo investigation of the pharmacokinetic profile of the nanobodies, 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 and with the faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Ghent University)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Hernot, Sophie, Supervisor
Place of PublicationBrussels
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


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