Short-wave infrared imaging enables high-contrast fluorescence-guided surgery in neuroblastoma

Cancer Res. 2023 Mar 19;CAN-22-2918. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-22-2918. Online ahead of print.


Fluorescence-guided surgery is set to play a pivotal role in the intraoperative management of pediatric tumors. Short-wave infrared imaging (SWIR) has advantages over conventional near-infrared I (NIR-I) imaging with reduced tissue scattering and autofluorescence. Here, two NIR-I dyes (IRDye800CW and IR12), with long tails emitting in the SWIR range, were conjugated with a clinical-grade anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody (Dinutuximab-beta) to compare NIR-I and SWIR imaging for neuroblastoma surgery. A first-of-its-kind multispectral NIR-I/SWIR fluorescence imaging device was constructed to allow an objective comparison between the two imaging windows. Conjugates were first characterized in vitro. Tissue-mimicking phantoms, imaging specimens of known geometric and material composition, were used to assess the sensitivity and depth penetration of the NIR-I/SWIR device, showing a minimum detectable volume of ~0.9 mm3 and depth penetration up to 3 mm. In vivo, fluorescence imaging using the NIR-I/SWIR device showed a high tumor-to-background ratio (TBR) for both dyes, with anti-GD2-IR800 being significantly brighter than anti-GD2-IR12. Crucially, the system enabled higher TBR at SWIR wavelengths than at NIR-I wavelengths, verifying SWIR imaging enables high-contrast delineation of tumor margins. This work demonstrates that by combining the high-specificity of anti-GD2 antibodies with the availability and translatability of existing NIR-I dyes, along with the advantages of SWIR in terms of depth and tumor signal-to-background ratio, GD2-targeted NIR-I/SWIR-guided surgery could improve the treatment of neuroblastoma patients, warranting investigation in future clinical trials.