Fluorescence guided surgery is an emerging technology that may improve accuracy of pulmonary resection for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Herein we explore optical imaging for NSCLC surgery using the well-studied protoporphyrin IX (PPIX)/5-aminiolevulinic acid (5-ALA) system. More specifically, we evaluate fluorescent patterns observed when using (1) commonly utilized in vitro and murine NSCLC models and with (2) spontaneous canine NSCLCs, which closely mimic human disease. Using flow cytometry and fluorescent microscopy, we confirmed that NSCLC models fluoresce after exposure to 5-ALA in vitro. High levels of fluorescence were similarly observed in murine tumors within 2 hours of systemic 5-ALA delivery. When evaluating this approach in spontaneous canine NSCLC, tumor fluorescence was observed in 6 of 7 canines. Tumor fluorescence, however, was heterogenous owing to intratumoral variations in cellularity and necrosis. Margin and lymph node detection was inaccurate. These data demonstrate the importance of incorporating reliable cancer models into preclinical evaluations of optical agents. Utilization of spontaneous large animal models of cancer may further provide an important intermediate in the path to human translation of optical contrast agents.
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