Functional and molecular photoacoustic imaging for the detection of lymph node metastasis
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Accurate detection of the spread of cancer is critical for planning the best treatment strategy for a patient. Currently, an invasive sentinel lymph node biopsy is commonly used to detect metastases after a primary tumor is detected. This procedure results in patient morbidity, requires weeks of waiting, and is prone to sampling error. This dissertation presents new developments in an emerging biomedical imaging modality – photoacoustic imaging – and their application to improving the detection of metastases in the lymphatic system in a metastatic mouse model of squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity. Label-free spectroscopic photoacoustic imaging is demonstrated to detect hypoxia that results from the development of sub-millimeter cancer foci in the lymph node. In order to improve the sensitivity to micrometastases, molecularly-activated plasmonic nanosensers which are targeted to the epidermal growth factor receptor are introduced. The nanosensors are demonstrated to detect metastases consisting of only a few tens of cells. Improvements to spectroscopic photoacoustic imaging are then demonstrated by selecting imaging wavelengths based on the spectral properties of the optical absorbers. Finally, a new contrast agent – silica-coated gold nanoplates – are used to map the sentinel lymph node with high contrast. The final result is a set of tools that can be used to noninvasively detect micrometastases and improve molecular photoacoustic imaging.