Background More than 80,000 people undergo resection of a pulmonary tumor each year, and the only method to determine if the tumor is malignant is histologic analysis. We propose that a targeted molecular contrast agent could bind lung adenocarcinomas, which could be identified using real-time optical imaging at the time of surgery. Methods Fifty patients with a biopsy-proven lung adenocarcinoma were enrolled. Before surgery, patients were systemically administered 0.1 mg/kg of a fluorescent folate receptor alpha (FRα)-targeted molecular contrast agent by intravenous infusion. During surgery, tumors were imaged in situ and ex vivo, after the lung parenchyma was dissected to directly expose the tumor to the imaging system. Results Tumors ranged from 0.3 to 7.5 cm (mean: 2.6 cm), and 46 of 50 (92%) lung adenocarcinomas were fluorescent. No false uptake occurred, and in 2 cases, intraoperative imaging revealed tumor metastases (3 mm and 6 mm) that were not recognized preoperatively. Four adenocarcinomas were not fluorescent, and immunohistochemistry showed that these adenocarcinomas did not express FRα. Tumor fluorescence was independent of nodule size, uptake of 2-deoxy-2-(18F)fluoro-D-glucose, histology, and tumor differentiation. Molecular imaging could identify only 7 of the 50 adenocarcinomas in situ in the patient without bisection. The most important predictor of the success of molecular imaging in locating the tumor in situ was the distance of the nodule from the pleural surface. Conclusions Intraoperative molecular imaging with a targeted contrast agent can identify lung adenocarcinomas, and this technology is currently useful in patients with subpleural tumors, irrespective of size. With further refinements, this tool may prove useful in locating adenocarcinomas that are deeper in the lung parenchyma, in lymph nodes, and at pleural and resection margins.
- Key Words Intraoperative imaging
- folate imaging
- image-guided surgery
- lung cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine