New imaging technique uses protein found in scorpion venom

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have developed a new brain imaging technique that includes an amino acid commonly found in scorpion venom. The team shared its findings in Neurosurgery.

The process involves a custom camera designed by Cedars-Sinai’s team and an imaging agent from Blaze Bioscience known as tozuleristide, or BLZ-100. BLZ-100 contains a synthetic version of an amino acid found in scorpion venom, and its fluorescent light glows when triggered by a near-infrared laser. The researchers’ goal was to use this light to help surgeons see brain tumor cells, guiding them during the procedure and leading to better overall care for those patients.

“With this fluorescence, you see the tumor so much clearer because it lights up like a Christmas tree,” senior author Adam Mamelak, MD, a professor at Cedars-Sinai as well as a shareholder and consultant for Blaze Bioscience, said in a news release.

The study published in Neurosurgery focused on this technique’s ability to help image gliomas, which do not typically respond well to more traditional treatment options such as chemotherapy. A total of 17 adult patients with brain tumors were given doses of the imaging agent before surgery, leading to a majority of the tumors “glowing” during the procedure. No serious adverse responses were reported, and more clinical trials are already underway.  

“The technique in this study holds great promise not only for brain tumors but for many other cancer types in which we need to identify the margins of cancers,” Keith L. Black, MD, chair of the department of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai and a consultant for Blaze Bioscience, said in the same release. “The ultimate goal is to bring greater precision to the surgical care we provide to our patients.”