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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 23;107(8):3693-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000386107. Epub 2010 Feb 8.

Molecular MRI for sensitive and specific detection of lung metastases.

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Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging, Department of Chemistry, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


Early and specific detection of metastatic cancer cells in the lung (the most common organ targeted by metastases) could significantly improve cancer treatment outcomes. However, the most widespread lung imaging methods use ionizing radiation and have low sensitivity and/or low specificity for cancer cells. Here we address this problem with an imaging method to detect submillimeter-sized metastases with molecular specificity. Cancer cells are targeted by iron oxide nanoparticles functionalized with cancer-binding ligands, then imaged by high-resolution hyperpolarized (3)He MRI. We demonstrate in vivo detection of pulmonary micrometastates in mice injected with breast adenocarcinoma cells. The method not only holds promise for cancer imaging but more generally suggests a fundamentally unique approach to molecular imaging in the lungs.

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