Accurate delineation of tumor margins is vital to the successful surgical resection of brain tumors. We have previously developed a multimodal nanoparticle CLIO-Cy5.5, which is detectable by both magnetic resonance imaging and fluorescence, to assist in intraoperatively visualizing tumor boundaries. Here we examined the accuracy of tumor margin determination of orthotopic tumors implanted in hosts with differing immune responses to the tumor. Using a nonuser-based signal intensity method applied to fluorescent micrographs of 9L gliosarcoma green fluorescent protein (GFP) tumors, mean overestimations of 2 and 24 microm were obtained using Cy5.5 fluorescence, compared to the true tumor margin determined by GFP fluorescence, in nude mice and rats, respectively. To resolve which cells internalized the nanoparticle and to quantitate degree of uptake, tumors were disaggregated and cells were analyzed by flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. Nanoparticle uptake was seen in both CD11b+ cells (representing activated microglia and macrophages) and tumor cells in both animal models by both methods. CD11b+ cells were predominantly found at the tumor margin in both hosts, but were more pronounced at the margin in the rat model. Additional metastatic (CT26 colon) and primary (Gli36 glioma) brain tumor models likewise demonstrated that the nanoparticle was internalized both by tumor cells and by host cells. Together, these observations suggest that fluorescent nanoparticles provide an accurate method of tumor margin estimation based on a combination of tumor cell and host cell uptake for primary and metastatic tumors in animal model systems and offer potential for clinical translation.