Diagnosing breast cancer with an imaging pill
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For women, mammograms are a sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary, annual ritual. But this procedure doesn’t always provide accurate results, and it exposes women to X-rays. In a study appearing in ACS’ journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, scientists report that they have developed a non-invasive “disease screening pill” that can make cancerous tumors light up when exposed to near-infrared light in mice without using radiation.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, according to the American Cancer Society. Mammograms are X-rays of breast tissue that can provide information about a lump’s location and size, but they can’t distinguish between cancerous and benign growths. As a result, up to one in three healthy women undergo unnecessary breast cancer treatments and procedures, according to a recent study by researchers in Denmark. Mammograms also require low levels of radiation. While risk of harm from this exposure is minimal, repeated X-rays can potentially cause health issues. Fluorescent probes can detect breast tumors, but they must be given intravenously. So, Greg M. Thurber and colleagues set out to develop a more accurate, safer technique that was also non-invasive.

The researchers combined two types of molecules into a single pill: a targeting molecule that binds

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