Researchers have found a way to identify lung cancer at the cellular level in real-time during a biopsy, promising to detect the disease earlier and with more confidence. The researchers call the new technology NIR-nCLE. It combines the cancer-targeted near-infrared (NIR) tracer with a needle-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (nCLE) system, modified to detect the NIR signal.
The findings demonstrate that an imaging agent detected via guided technology during biopsies in real-time can effectively light up cancer cells that may have been too small to identify using existing technology.
Based on the new imaging approach’s more readily identifiable presence of fluorescent cancer cells, five non-expert raters diagnosed the malignant or non-malignant tissue biopsies with 96 percent accuracy. They made no false negatives on the 20 human biopsy specimens they reviewed.
The research team examined human cancer cells from patients who had a smoking history. Integrating the technologies allowed the researchers to detect cancer at the cellular level in real-time during a biopsy in various preclinical models, including in culture, small animal models, and human tissue from patients undergoing surgery for lung cancer as part of an ongoing clinical trial. Imaging techniques like NIR-nCLE can offer greater precision in identifying and, later, removing cancer cells.