Preclinical Translational Initiatives

We are combining new, translatable multimodal platforms for cancer diagnostics with state-of-the-art imaging tools (PET, optical) for image-guided surgery/interventions, as well as non-surgical applications.


We are exploring a range of potential applications of nanotechnology within the context of cancer diagnosis and staging.

Novel Particle Probe Development

Imaging of Metastatic Disease in a Spontaneous Melanoma Miniswine Model. (A) Whole-body 18F-FDG PET-CT sagittal and axial views demonstrate primary tumor (green arrow) and single SLN (white arrow) posteriorly within the right neck after IV injection. (B) High-resolution dynamic PET-CT scan one hour after subdermal, peritumoral injection of 124I-RGD-PEG-dots (SLN, arrow; left-sided node, arrowhead). (C) Whole-body Cy5 optical image of the excised SLN. (D) Gross image of the cut surface of the black-pigmented SLN (arrow), which measured 1.3 x 1.0 x 1.5 cm3, and annotated gamma counted activity. E Low-power view of H&E stained SLN demonstrating scattered melanomatous clusters.

We are developing, characterizing, and optimizing the use of multimodal silica particle platforms for the detection and localization of primary tumors and metastatic disease spread in small and large animal models. These particles are cancer selective, with ligands (i.e., peptides, antibodies) attached to their surface that specifically target cancer cells. For surgical applications, we are implementing these platforms in tandem with state-of-the-art hand-held optical and PET detection devices (see below). We are also exploring correlative cancer biology at the cellular and molecular levels in clinically relevant tumor models.

  • Sentinel Lymph Node (SLN) Mapping
    We are performing mapping studies in spontaneous metastatic melanoma miniswine models to enhance detection of nodal metastases, stage tumors, and sensitively assess relative disease burden.
  • Tumor Cell Binding and Uptake
    We are conducting studies to investigate the influence of particle size and surface composition on internalization, modulation of signaling pathways, and biological processes such as cell migration and proliferation.

New Hand-Held Device Co-developments

We are using a fluorescence camera system designed by ArteMIS Molecular Imaging BV to perform real-time optical imaging during both open and minimally invasive surgical procedures. We are testing the device in large animal models of melanoma to detect metastatic disease following administration of near-infrared dye-containing probes.

We are also developing an approach that combines fluorescence imaging and reflectance confocal microscopy in conjunction with new optical probes for imaging skin lesions and other superficial lesions along mucosal surfaces.