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Biomed Opt Express. 2012 Jul 1;3(7):1534-47. doi: 10.1364/BOE.3.001534. Epub 2012 Jun 6.

Highly sensitive detection of cancer cells using femtosecond dual-wavelength near-IR two-photon imaging.


We describe novel imaging protocols that allow detection of small cancer cell colonies deep inside tissue phantoms with high sensitivity and specificity. We compare fluorescence excited in Styryl-9M molecules by femtosecond pulses at near IR wavelengths, where Styryl-9M shows the largest dependence of the two-photon absorption (2PA) cross section on the local environment. We show that by calculating the normalized ratio of the two-photon excited fluorescence (2PEF) intensity at 1200 nm and 1100 nm excitation wavelengths we can achieve high sensitivity and specificity for determining the location of cancer cells surrounded by normal cells. The 2PEF results showed a positive correlation with the levels of MDR1 proteins expressed by the cells, and, for high MDR1 expressors, as few as ten cancer cells could be detected. Similar high sensitivity is also demonstrated for tumor colonies induced in mouse external ears. This technique could be useful in early cancer detection, and, perhaps, also in monitoring dormant cancer deposits.


(170.3880) Medical and biological imaging; (190.4180) Multiphoton processes

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