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Contrast Media & Molecular Imaging
Volume 2018, Article ID 4979746, 12 pages
Research Article

NIRF Optical/PET Dual-Modal Imaging of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Using Heptamethine Carbocyanine Dye

1Laboratory Animal Center, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710032, China
2Department of Hepatobiliary and Pancreaticosplenic Surgery, Xijing Hospital, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710032, China
3State Key Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Xijing Hospital of Digestive Diseases, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710032, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Changhong Shi; nc.ude.ummf@gnohgnahc and Mengbin Li; nc.ude.ummf@nibmil

Received 30 September 2017; Revised 13 January 2018; Accepted 5 February 2018; Published 8 March 2018

Academic Editor: Fijs W. B. Van Leeuwen

Copyright © 2018 Caiqin Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Combining near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) and nuclear imaging techniques provides a novel approach for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) diagnosis. Here, we report the synthesis and characteristics of a dual-modality NIRF optical/positron emission tomography (PET) imaging probe using heptamethine carbocyanine dye and verify its feasibility in both nude mice and rabbits with orthotopic xenograft liver cancer. This dye, MHI-148, is an effective cancer-specific NIRF imaging agent and shows preferential uptake and retention in liver cancer. The corresponding NIRF imaging intensity reaches 109/cm2 tumor area at 24 h after injection in mice with HCC subcutaneous tumors. The dye can be further conjugated with radionuclide 68Ga (68Ga-MHI-148) for PET tracing. We applied the dual-modality methodology toward the detection of HCC in both patient-derived orthotopic xenograft (PDX) models and rabbit orthotopic transplantation models. NIRF/PET images showed clear tumor delineation after probe injection (MHI-148 and 68Ga-MHI-148). The tumor-to-muscle (T/M) standardized uptake value (SUV) ratios were obtained from PET at 1 h after injection of 68Ga-MHI-148, which was helpful for effectively capturing small tumors in mice (0.5 cm × 0.3 cm) and rabbits (1.2 cm × 1.8 cm). This cancer-targeting NIRF/PET dual-modality imaging probe provides a proof of principle for noninvasive detection of deep-tissue tumors in mouse and rabbit and is a promising technique for more accurate and early detection of HCC.