Evaluation of OTL38-Generated Tumor-to-Background Ratio in Intraoperative Molecular Imaging-Guided Lung Cancer Resections

Feredun Azari, Gregory Kennedy, Elizabeth Bernstein, James Delikatny, John Y.K. Lee, John Kucharczuk, Phil S. Low, Sunil Singhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Cancer surgery has multiple challenges including localizing small lesions, ensuring negative margins, and identifying synchronous cancers. One of the tools proposed to address these issues is intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI). An important consideration in IMI is the quantification of the tumor fluorescence during the procedure and using that data to add clinical value. Currently, the most commonly cited measure of quantification is the tumor-to-background ratio (TBR). Our goal was to evaluate the clinical value of TBR measured with OTL38 NIR tracer during a lung cancer resection. Methods: Intraoperative data was retrospectively reviewed from a prospectively collected 5-year database. Between 2015 and 2020, 279 patients were included in the study. For standardization, all patients underwent infusion of the same targeted molecular optical contrast agent (OTL38) for lung cancer resections; then, the mean fluorescence intensity of the tumors and background tissues were calculated. To evaluate the clinical efficacy of the TBR calculation, the results were correlated with patient, biologic, tumor, and technological factors. Results: For pulmonary surgery, patient factors such as gender, age, smoking history, and time from infusion of OTL38 to surgery did not have any statistical significance in predicting the TBR during surgery. In addition, TBR measurements did not correlate with location of the tumor in the lung (p = 0.123). There was no statistical correlation of preoperative positron emission tomography measurements (standardized uptake value) with intraoperative TBR. However, there was statistically significant negative correlation of in situ TBR measurement and the distance of the lesion from the surface of the organ (p < 0.001). Adenocarcinoma spectrum lesions overall had statistically significant correlation with in situ fluorescence compared to other NSCLC malignancies (p < 0.01) but TBR measurements could not identify histopathologic subtype on univariate analysis (p = 0.089). There was a tendency for in situ fluorescence for moderately and well-differentiated adenocarcinoma spectrum lesions, but this was not statistically significant. When comparing the in situ TBR of benign to malignant nodules in the lung, there was no statistically significant association (p = 0.145). In subset analysis, adenocarcinoma spectrum lesions tend to fluoresce at brighter with OTL38 compared to other histologic subtypes. Conclusion: In our various iterations, the results of our retrospective analysis did not show that TBR measurements during OTL38-guided surgery provide clinically useful information about the nature of the nodule or cancer. The true value of IMI is in the ability for the surgeon to use the fluorescence to guide the surgeon to the tumor and margins, but that sophisticated quantification of the amount of fluorescence may not have clinical utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Imaging and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Fluorescence guided surgery
  • Folate receptor alpha
  • Intraoperative molecular imaging
  • Lung cancer
  • OTL38-guided surgery
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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