Background: Nanoparticles have recently gained interest as exogenous contrast agents in a variety of biomedical applications related to cancer detection and treatment. The objective of this study was to determine the potential of topically administered antibody conjugated gold nanorods (GNRs) for imaging squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin using near-infrared narrowband imaging (NBI). Near-infrared (NIR) NBI images narrow wavelength bands to enhance contrast from plasmonic particles in a wide field portable and noncontact device that is clinically compatible for real-time tumor imaging and tumor margin demarcation.
Study design: We conjugated GNRs to Cetuximab, a clinically approved humanized antibody that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is overexpressed on the surface of many tumor cells, especially SCCs. We excised subcutaneous xenografts of SCCs (A431) from Swiss nu/nu mice and divided the tumors into two groups: (1) the targeted group (Cetuximab conjugated GNRs) and (2) the control group (polyethylene glycol-conjugated GNRs). After topical application of particles and incubation for 30 minutes, the tumors were washed and imaged using NBI. In addition, we performed two-photon imaging to quantify the binding of EGFR targeted GNRs in tumors and their depth profile.
Results: The NBI images showed a visual increase in contrast from tumors after topical administration of targeted GNR. Targeted GNR tumors showed increased contrast compared to tumors administered with the control GNR. There was a statistically significant increase in mean pixel intensity (∼2.5×) from targeted GNR tumors (n = 6). Two-photon microscopy images of targeted GNRs confirmed their binding affinity to the EGF receptors over expressed in the A431 tumors.
Conclusion: We have demonstrated that a topical application of gold nanorods targeted specifically to tumor growth factor receptors results in a significantly higher image contrast compared to nontargeted gold nanorods. These results demonstrate the feasibility of near-infrared NBI to image and demarcate tumor margins during surgical resection using topical administration of targeted GNR.