Management of metastatic disease is integral to cancer treatment. Evaluation of metastases often requires surgical removal of all anatomically susceptible lymph nodes for ex vivo pathologic examination. We report a family of novel ratiometric activatable cell-penetrating peptides, which contain Cy5 as far red fluorescent donor and Cy7 as near-infrared fluorescent acceptor. Cy5 is quenched in favor of Cy7 re-emission until the intervening linker is cut by tumor-associated matrix metalloproteinases-2 and 9 (MMP2,9) or elastases. Such cleavage increases the Cy5:Cy7 emission ratio 40-fold and triggers tissue retention of the Cy5-containing fragment. This ratiometric increase provides an accelerated and quantifiable metric to identify primary tumors and metastases to liver and lymph nodes with increased sensitivity and specificity. This technique represents a significant advance over existing nonratiometric protease sensors and sentinel lymph node detection methods, which give no information about cancer invasion.