Nerve preservation during surgery is critical because damage can result in significant morbidity. This remains a challenge especially for skull base surgeries where cranial nerves (CNs) are involved because visualization and access are particularly poor in that location. We present a paired-agent imaging method to enhance identification of CNs using nerve-specific fluorophores. Two myelin-targeting imaging agents were evaluated, Oxazine 4 and Rhodamine 800, and coadministered with a control agent, indocyanine green, either intravenously or topically in rats. Fluorescence imaging was performed on excised brains ex vivo, and nerve contrast was evaluated via paired-agent ratiometric data analysis. Although contrast was improved among all experimental groups using paired-agent imaging compared to conventional, solely targeted imaging, Oxazine 4 applied directly exhibited the greatest enhancement, with a minimum 3 times improvement in CNs delineation. This work highlights the importance of accounting for nonspecific signal of targeted agents, and demonstrates that paired-agent imaging is one method capable of doing so. Although staining, rinsing, and imaging protocols need to be optimized, these findings serve as a demonstration for the potential use of paired-agent imaging to improve contrast of CNs, and consequently, surgical outcome.
Brain tumors represent a leading cause of cancer death for people under the age of 40 and the probability complete surgical resection of brain tumors remains low owing to the invasive nature of these tumors and the consequences of damaging healthy brain tissue. Molecular imaging is an emerging approach that has the potential to improve the ability for surgeons to correctly discriminate between healthy and cancerous tissue; however, conventional molecular imaging approaches in brain suffer from significant background signal in healthy tissue or an inability target more invasive sections of the tumor. This work presents initial studies investigating the ability of novel dual-tracer molecular imaging strategies to be used to overcome the major limitations of conventional “single-tracer” molecular imaging. The approach is evaluated in simulations and in an in vivo mice study with animals inoculated orthotopically using fluorescent human glioma cells. An epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) targeted Affibody-fluorescent marker was employed as a targeted imaging agent, and the suitability of various FDA approved untargeted fluorescent tracers (e.g. fluorescein & indocyanine green) were evaluated in terms of their ability to account for nonspecific uptake and retention of the targeted imaging agent. Signal-to-background ratio was used to measure and compare the amount of reporter in the tissue between targeted and untargeted tracer. The initial findings suggest that FDA-approved fluorescent imaging agents are ill-suited to act as untargeted imaging agents for dual-tracer fluorescent guided brain surgery as they suffer from poor delivery to the healthy brain tissue and therefore cannot be used to identify nonspecific vs. specific uptake of the targeted imaging agent where current surgery is most limited.