Research ArticleCancer Imaging

Metastatic status of sentinel lymph nodes in melanoma determined noninvasively with multispectral optoacoustic imaging

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Science Translational Medicine  09 Dec 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 317, pp. 317ra199
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad1278

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Imaging melanoma metastasis

Avoiding invasive biopsy altogether, an imaging technique that relies on endogenous biomolecules to generate acoustic signals could be used to detect metastases in the body. Stoffels et al. devised a multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) approach that could image the pigment melanin in lymph nodes. Melanin would only be present in the lymph nodes if the primary cancer—melanoma—had spread to distant locations. The authors used handheld MSOT detectors and a near-infrared fluorophore (which pools in lymph nodes) to image metastases in patients, and complemented these optoacoustic images with ultrasound to gain a complete picture of each lymph node’s status. Such a noninvasive approach could reduce the number of patients subjected to sentinel lymph node surgical excision by “ruling out” metastasis.