PURPOSE: The reoperation rate for breast-conserving surgery is as high as 15-30% due to residual tumor in the surgical cavity after surgery. In vivo tumor-targeted optical molecular imaging may serve as a red-flag technique to improve intraoperative surgical margin assessment and to reduce reoperation rates. Cysteine cathepsins are overexpressed in most solid tumor types, including breast cancer. We developed a cathepsin-targeted, quenched fluorescent activity-based probe, VGT-309, and evaluated whether it could be used for tumor detection and image-guided surgery in syngeneic tumor-bearing mice.
METHODS: Binding specificity of the developed probe was evaluated in vitro. Next, fluorescent imaging in BALB/c mice bearing a murine breast tumor was performed at different time points after VGT-309 administration. Biodistribution of VGT-309 after 24 h in tumor-bearing mice was compared to control mice. Image-guided surgery was performed at multiple time points tumors with different clinical fluorescent camera systems and followed by ex vivo analysis.
RESULTS: The probe was specifically activated by cathepsins X, B/L, and S. Fluorescent imaging revealed an increased tumor-to-background contrast over time up to 15.1 24 h post probe injection. In addition, VGT-309 delineated tumor tissue during image-guided surgery with different optical fluorescent imaging camera systems.
CONCLUSION: These results indicate that optical fluorescent molecular imaging using the cathepsin-targeted probe, VGT-309, may improve intraoperative tumor detection, which could translate to more complete tumor resection when coupled with commercially available surgical tools and techniques.