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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


The up-regulation of cell surface receptors has become a central focus in personalized cancer treatment; however, because of the complex nature of contrast agent pharmacokinetics in tumor tissue, methods to quantify receptor binding in vivo remain elusive. Here, we present a dual-tracer optical technique for noninvasive estimation of specific receptor binding in cancer. A multispectral MRI-coupled fluorescence molecular tomography system was used to image the uptake kinetics of two fluorescent tracers injected simultaneously, one tracer targeted to the receptor of interest and the other tracer a nontargeted reference. These dynamic tracer data were then fit to a dual-tracer compartmental model to estimate the density of receptors available for binding in the tissue. Applying this approach to mice with deep-seated gliomas that overexpress the EGF receptor produced an estimate of available receptor density of 2.3 ± 0.5 nM (n = 5), consistent with values estimated in comparative invasive imaging and ex vivo studies.