The lymphatic system plays a critical role in the maintenance of healthy tissues. Its function is an important indicator of the presence and extent of disease. In oncology, metastatic spread to local lymph nodes (LNs) is a strong predictor of poor outcome. Clinical methods for the visualization of LNs involve regional injection and tracking of 99mTc-sulfur colloid (99mTc-SC) along with absorbent dyes. Intraoperatively, these techniques suffer from the requirement of administration of multiple contrast media (99mTc-SC and isosulfan blue), unwieldy γ-probes, and a short effective surgical window for dyes. Preclinically, imaging of transport through the lymphatics is further hindered by the resolution of lymphoscintigraphy and SPECT. We investigated multimodal imaging in animal models using intradermal administration of 18F-FDG for combined diagnostic and intraoperative use. PET visualizes LNs with high sensitivity and resolution and low background. Cerenkov radiation (CR) from 18F-FDG was evaluated to optically guide surgical resection of LNs.
Imaging of 18F-FDG uptake used PET and sensitive luminescent imaging equipment (for CR). Dynamic PET was performed in both sexes and multiple strains (NCr Nude, C57BL/6, and Nu/Nu) of mice. Biodistribution confirmed the uptake of 18F-FDG and was compared with that of 99mTc-SC. Verification of uptake and the ability to use 18F-FDG CR to guide nodal removal were confirmed histologically.
Intradermal injection of 18F-FDG clearly revealed lymphatic vessels and LNs by PET. Dynamic imaging revealed rapid and sustained labeling of these structures. Biodistribution of the radiotracer confirmed the active transport of radioglucose in the lymphatics to the local LNs and over time into the general circulation. 18F-FDG also enabled visualization of LNs through CR, even before surgically revealing the site, and guided LN resection.
Intradermal 18F-FDG can enhance the preclinical investigation of the lymphatics through dynamic, high-resolution, and quantitative tomographic imaging. Clinically, combined PET/Cerenkov imaging has significant potential as a single-dose, dual-modality tracer for diagnostics (PET/CT) and guided resection of LNs (Cerenkov optical).