Objective: To investigate the feasibility of ultrasonographic (US) imaging of head and neck cancer with targeted contrast agents both in vitro and in vivo. We hypothesize that conjugation of microbubble contrast agent to tumor-specific antibodies may improve US detection of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
Design: Preclinical blinded assessment of anti-EGFR and anti-CD147 microbubble contrast agents for US imaging of HNSCC.
Setting: Animal study.
Subjects: Immunodeficient mice.
Intervention: Injection of targeted microbubbles.
Main outcome measure: Microbubble uptake in tumors as detected by US.
Results: In vitro assessment of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anti-CD147-targeted microbubbles in 6 head and neck cancer cell lines yielded a 6-fold improvement over normal dermal fibroblasts (P < .001). Binding of targeted agents had a positive correlation to both epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) (R(2) = 0.81) and CD147 (R(2) = 0.72) expression among all cell lines. In vivo imaging of flank tumors in nude mice (N = 8) yielded enhanced resolution of anti-EGFR-and anti-CD147-targeted microbubble agents over IgG control (P < .001), while dual-targeted contrast agents offered enhanced imaging over single-targeted contrast agents (P = .02 and P = .05, respectively). In a blinded in vivo assessment, targeted contrast agents increased intratumoral enhancement of flank tumors over controls. Targeted US contrast agents to both EGFR and CD147 were 100% sensitive and 87% specific in the detection of flank tumors.
Conclusion: This preclinical study demonstrates feasibility of using molecular US to target HNSCC for contrast-enhanced imaging of HNSCC tumor in vivo.