Label-free Visualization of Early Cancer Hepatic Micrometastasis and Intraoperative Image-guided Surgery by Photoacoustic Imaging

Qian, Yu, Shanshan, Huang, Zhiyou, Wu, Jiadi, Zheng, Xiaoyuan, Chen, Liming, Nie

Journal of Nuclear Medicine |

Objectives: The detection of cancer micrometastasis for early diagnosis and treatment poses a great challenge for conventional imaging techniques. The aim of study is to evaluate the performance of photoacoustic imaging (PAI) in detecting hepatic micrometastases from melanoma in a very early stage and perform tumor resection by intraoperative photoacoustic image-guidance. Methods: In vivo studies were performed by following protocols approved by the Ethical Committee for Animal Research at Xiamen University. First, a B16 melanoma hepatic metastasis mouse model (n = 10) was established to study the development of micrometastases in vivo. Next, the hepatic metastasis mice models were imaged by scalable PAI instrument, ultrasound, 9.4 T high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT), and bioluminescence imaging. Photoacoustic images acquired with optical wavelengths spanning from 680 to 850 nm were spectrally unmixed by using a linear least-squares method to differentiate various components. Differences in the signal-to-background ratios among different modalities were determined with the two-tailed paired t test. The diagnosis results were assessed with histologic examinations. Excised liver samples from patients diagnosed with hepatic cancer were also examined to identify tumor boundary. In vivo metastatic melanoma removal in surgery was precisely guided by the portable PAI system. Results: PAI achieved as small as ~400 µm hepatic melanoma detection at a depth up to 7 mm in vivo, which could early detect small melanoma compared with ultrasound and MRI in mouse models. The signal ratio of tumor-to-liver acquired with PAI in micrometastases at 8 days (4.2 ± 0.2, n = 6) and 14 days (9.2 ± 0.4, n = 5) were significantly higher than those obtained with PET/CT (1.8 ± 0.1, n = 5 and 4.5 ± 0.2, n = 5, P <0.001 for both). Functional PAI provided dynamic oxygen saturation changes during tumor growth. The limit of detection was measured to be approximately 219 cells per microliter in vitro. We successfully performed intraoperative photoacoustic image-guided surgery in vivo using the rapid portable PAI system. Conclusion: Our findings offer a rapid and effective tool to noninvasively detect micrometastases and guide intraoperative resection as a complementary clinical imaging application.