Cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are among the most frequent and most lethal cancers worldwide. An important reason for this high mortality is that early disease is typically asymptomatic, and patients often present with advanced, incurable disease. Even in high-risk patients who routinely undergo endoscopic screening, lesions can be missed due to their small size or subtle appearance. Thus, current imaging approaches lack the sensitivity and specificity to accurately detect incipient GI tract cancers. Here we report our finding that a single dose of a high-sensitivity surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering nanoparticle (SERRS-NP) enables reliable detection of precancerous GI lesions in animal models that closely mimic disease development in humans. Some of these animal models have not been used previously to evaluate imaging probes for early cancer detection. The studies were performed using a commercial Raman imaging system, a newly developed mouse Raman endoscope, and finally a clinically applicable Raman endoscope for larger animal studies. We show that this SERRS-NP-based approach enables robust detection of small, premalignant lesions in animal models that faithfully recapitulate human esophageal, gastric, and colorectal tumorigenesis. This method holds promise for much earlier detection of GI cancers than currently possible and could lead therefore to marked reduction of morbidity and mortality of these tumor types.
Keywords: Raman; cancer; early detection; endoscopy; nanoparticle; preclinical.