Sentinel lymph node imaging and biopsy is important to clinical assessment of cancer metastasis, and novel non-radioactive lymphographic tracers have been actively pursued over the years. Here, we develop gold molecular clusters (Au25) functionalized by phosphorylcholine (PC) ligands for NIR-II (1000-3000 nm) fluorescence imaging of draining lymph nodes in 4T1 murine breast cancer and CT26 colon cancer tumor mouse models. The Au-phosphorylcholine (Au-PC) probes exhibit 'super-stealth' behavior with little interactions with serum proteins, cells and tissues in vivo, which differs from the indocyanine green (ICG) dye. Subcutaneous injection of Au-PC allows lymph node mapping by NIR-II fluorescence imaging at an optimal time of ~ 0.5 - 1 hour postinjection followed by rapid renal clearance. Preclinical NIR-II fluorescence LN imaging with Au-PC affords high signal to background ratios and high safety and biocompatibility, promising for future clinical translation.
© 2022. The Author(s).