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Acad Radiol. 2013 Jun;20(6):764-8. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2013.02.006.

Redox imaging of human breast cancer core biopsies: a preliminary investigation.

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  • 1Molecular Imaging Laboratory, Department of Radiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



The clinical gold standard for breast cancer diagnosis relies on invasive biopsies followed by tissue fixation for subsequent histopathological examination. This process renders the specimens to be much less suitable for biochemical or metabolic analysis. Our previous metabolic imaging data in tumor xenograft models showed that the mitochondrial redox state is a sensitive indicator that can distinguish between normal and tumor tissue. In this study, we investigated whether the same redox imaging technique can be applied to core biopsy samples of human breast cancer and whether the mitochondrial redox state may serve as a novel metabolic biomarker that may be used to distinguish between normal and malignant breast tissue in the clinic. Our long-term objective was to identify novel metabolic imaging biomarkers for breast cancer diagnosis.


Both normal and cancerous tissue specimens were collected from the cancer-bearing breasts of three patients shortly after surgical resection. Core biopsies and tissue blocks were obtained from tumor and normal adjacent breast tissue, respectively. All specimens were snap-frozen with liquid nitrogen, embedded in chilled mounting medium with flavin adenine dinucleotide and reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide reference standards adjacently placed, and scanned using the Chance redox scanner (ie, cryogenic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide/oxidized flavoprotein fluorescence imager).


Our preliminary data showed cancerous tissues had up to 10-fold higher oxidized flavoprotein signals and had elevated oxidized redox state compared to the normal tissues from the same patient. A high degree of tumor tissue heterogeneity in the redox indices was observed.


Our finding suggests that the identified redox imaging indices could differentiate between cancer and noncancer breast tissues without subjecting tissues to fixatives. We propose that this novel redox scanning procedure may assist in tissue diagnosis in freshly procured biopsy samples before tissue fixation.

Copyright © 2013 AUR. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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