Study: Bioluminescence imaging can help with early eye cancer detection

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Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) can help in the early detection of eye cancer, according to a study published online, ahead of the December issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Qian Huang, MD, PhD, from the First People’s Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China, and colleagues, induced intraocular and metastatic tumors in mice by injecting bioluminescent retinoblastoma (RB) cells, HXO-Rb44 and Y79, into eye compartments and the left ventricle or tail vein. The researchers then performed bioluminescent imaging—using  a NightOwl LB 981 molecular imaging system (Berthold Technologies)—to track and monitor the growth of the tumors.

Intraocular injection of HXO-Rb44-GFP-luc cells resulted in 100 percent/80 percent/80 percent successful RB tumor development in the anterior chamber, vitreal cavity and subretinal space, respectively, in the mice. The subretinal injection of Y79-GFP-luc cells resulted in 100 percent tumor development.

According to the researchers, BLI signal intensity correlated with the number of tumor cells injected as well as the weight of the tumor-bearing eyes. Metastasis developed in multiple organs, including the lymph nodes, bone and brain, which the authors said resembled the RB profile seen in human patients.

"BLI allowed sensitive and quantitative localization and monitoring of intraocular and metastatic tumor growth in vivo and thus might be a useful tool to study cancer biology as well as anti-cancer therapies," said Huang.

According to the nonprofit organization Retinoblastoma International, the condition is a childhood cancer that arises from immature retinal cells in one or both eyes and can strike children from the time they are in the womb up until about five years of age. It is curable if caught in time.

"Eye removal is usually performed for larger tumors. Small tumors are treated using therapeutic approaches such as chemotherapy. Because of the fast progression, early detection is important for preservation of vision, eye retention and even survival," said Huang.