Study explores a novel way to highlight lung cancer during surgery

Image 1 - Gavin and Vergent team

Above: (L to R) SVHM’s Vergent study team - Jane Mack, Gavin Wright and Rafaela Anja

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) is involved in a world-first study exploring the use of a fluorescent imaging agent to provide surgeons with better visibility of tumours.

As part of the Vergent Bioscience study, the novel agent being assessed is injected intravenously into a patient with lung cancer at least four hours before undergoing minimally invasive or robotic-assisted surgery.

The aim is for the agent to bind to a protein found in high levels in and around cancer cells and fluoresce under near-infrared light projected from a robotic or laparoscopic endocope. It is hoped to help surgeons detect hard-to-see tumours in real time and ultimately improve patients’ health outcomes.

Practice-changing approach

SVHM was the lead site for the study’s Phase 2 trials that have explored the safety, dosing and efficacy of VGT-309 in patients undergoing lung cancer surgery.

“The system aims to highlight areas for removal in fluorescent green and will potentially help to increase the surgeon’s accuracy,” said Associate Professor Gavin Wright, Director of Surgical Oncology at SVHM, and the study’s Principal Investigator.

“In addition, it may help reduce the time required to find a tumour, and potentially, reduce the need for subsequent operations. This really is a trial of personalised precision surgery.”

The results from the Phase 2 trials were presented by A/Prof Wright at the World Conference of Lung Cancer, in Singapore, in September 2023.

“The research was acknowledged as practice-changing, which is what every research team hopes their work will be,” said A/Prof Wright.

“Unexpectedly, we found the agent highlight cancers from other organs during some surgeries, including bowel and breast cancers, in addition to the lung cancer we were seeking to identify. We hope to explore this further.”

With the National Lung Cancer Screening program to commence in Australia in 2025, A/Prof Wright highlighted the project as very timely research.

- Gavin and Andrew

Above: A/Prof Gavin Wright with Dr Andrew Cheng investigating the use of VGT-309 to identify a tumour