Suspicious nodules detected by radiography are often investigated by biopsy, but the diagnostic yield of biopsies of small nodules is poor. Here we report a method—NIR-nCLE—to detect cancer at the cellular level in real-time during biopsy. This technology integrates a cancer-targeted near-infrared (NIR) tracer with a needle-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (nCLE) system modified to detect NIR signal. We develop and test NIR-nCLE in preclinical models of pulmonary nodule biopsy including human specimens. We find that the technology has the resolution to identify a single cancer cell among normal fibroblast cells when co-cultured at a ratio of 1:1000, and can detect cancer cells in human tumors less than 2 cm in diameter. The NIR-nCLE technology rapidly delivers images that permit accurate discrimination between tumor and normal tissue by non-experts. This proof-of-concept study analyzes pulmonary nodules as a test case, but the results may be generalizable to other malignancies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)