Research Personnel: Dr. Vidya Ganapathy, Margot Zevon, Harini Kantamneni, Ragav Parthasarathy, et al.
Collaborators: Profs. Prabhas Moghe, Mark Pierce, Richard Riman, M.C. Tan
The ability to identify and track cancerous growths at early stages of growth is critically needed in order to maximize treatment options and improve patient outcomes. However, this goal of early detection remains unfulfilled by current clinical imaging techniques that fail to detect diseased lesions, due to their small size and sub-organ localization. With proper probes, optical imaging techniques can overcome this limitation by identifying the molecular phenotype of tumors at both macroscopic and microscopic scales. We are pioneering the use of nanophotonic short wave infrared (SWIR) imaging to molecularly phenotype small sub-surface cancerous lesions. To this end, we have developed nanoprobes consisting of rare earth (RE) phosphors encapsulated in human serum albumin to form rare-earth albumin nanocomposites (ReANCs). These are functionalized with ligands such as AMD3100, an antagonist to CXCR4 (a chemokine receptor involved in cell motility and a classic marker of cancer metastasis) for targeted lesion imaging. The functionalized ReANCs (fReANCs), administered intravenously, are able to target sub-tissue tumor micro-lesions, both in a lung metastatic model of breast cancer as well as in a multifocal model featuring metastases in the bones and adrenal glands.