Purpose Rapid, intra-operative identification of tumor tissue in the margins of excised specimens has become an important focus in the pursuit of reducing re-excision rates, especially for breast conserving surgery. Dual-probe difference specimen imaging (DDSI) is an emerging approach that uses the difference in uptake/clearance kinetics between a pair of fluorescently-labeled stains, one targeted to a biomarker-of-interest and the other an untargeted isotype, to reveal receptor-specific images of the specimen. Previous studies using antibodies labeled with either enhanced Raman particles or organic fluorophores have shown promising tumor vs. normal diagnostic performance. Yet, the unique properties of quantum dot-labeled antibody complexes (QDACs), which provide spectrally-distinct fluorescence emission from a common excitation source, make them ideal candidates for this application. Herein, we evaluate the diagnostic performance of QDAC-based DDSI in excised xenografts. Procedures Excised fresh specimens of normal tissue and human tumor xenografts with elevated expression of HER2 were stained with a HER2-targeted QDAC and an untargeted QDAC isotype. Stained specimens were imaged on a custom hyperspectral imaging system capable of spectrally separating the quantum dot signatures, and images processed using the DDSI approach. The diagnostic performance of this technique under different incubation temperatures and probe concentrations was evaluated using receiver-operator characteristic analysis. Results HER2-targeted QDAC-DDSI was able to distinguish HER2(+) tumors from normal tissue with reasonably high diagnostic performance; however, this performance was sensitive to temperature during the staining procedure. Area under the curve values were 0.61 when staining at room temperature but increased to over 0.81 when staining at 37 oC. Diagnostic performance was not affected by increasing stain concentration. Conclusions This study is the first to report dual-probe difference imaging of specimens using QDACs and hyperspectral imaging. Our results show promising diagnostic performance under certain conditions, and compel further optimization and evaluation of this intra-operative margin assessment technique.
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