Oncology: infrared light could help surgeons see more clearly the tumors during operations

UMCG and Kaer Labs enter into a research collaboration to evaluate NIR-II fluorescence for biological research and surgical


The mission of Kaer Labs is to help researchers and surgeons move biomedical research forward with optical imaging. This is why we are very happy to announce the collaboration with a World top team of researchers and surgeons led by Prof. dr. Schelto Kruijff, from UMCG, in order to evaluate how NIR-II fluorescence can improve fluorescent image guided surgery.

NIR-II fluorescence, also known as SWIR (for shortwave infrared), is a technique that uses photons between 900 nm and 1700 nm. Its advantages? It pushes some of the main limitations of near infrared fluorescence. It provides:

- images with better contrast, due to reduced scattering

- no background (no autofluorescence)

- a better penetration depth

- the compatibility with some already validated NIR-I fluo molecules (e.g. ICG and ZW800)

The collaboration between Kaer Labs and UMCG will start by assessing the possibility to use NIR-II fluorescence to visualize

cetuximab-800CW in vitro, both on tissue slices and on surgical specimens just resected from patients injected with cetuximab-800CW. The results from both NIR-I and NIR-II fluorescence imaging techniques will be compared to see if the optical advantages of

NIR-II imaging lead to the improvement of margin assessment.

UMCG and Kaer Labs also aim at using the NIR-II camera from Kaer Labs in vivo during surgical procedures. The system will be used to assess parathyroid gland perfusion in order to prevent hypoparathyroidism, a known and critical complication of thyroid surgery.

The project may also include in vivo fluorescence-guided imaging for resection margin evaluation and detection of lymph node metastasis in different cancer types after injection of fluorescent markers like bevacizumab-800CW and cetuximab-800CW.

Principles of intra operative fluorescence guidance, modified from the illustration in the article from Hu et al, Nature Biomedical Engineering https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-019-0494-0

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