Imaging the Lymphatic System with Nanomaterials

P.L. Choyke
National Cancer Institute, US

Keywords: cancer nanotechnology


The lymphatic system serves to relieve interstitial pressure within tumors and is a conduit for the extension of cancers. However, it is quite difficult to study because it is not directly accessible. The lymphatic system is highly sensitive to nano-sized particles and this property can be exploited to create excellent imaging tools. For instance, using paramagnetically tagged dendrimer-based MRI contrast agents it is possible to directly visualize the lymphatic system on MRI scans. Equivalent optical images can be obtained with quantum dots and labeled albumin which may be useful during surgical procedures to provide real time guidance. Iron oxide particles, which are “negative” MRI contrast agents, can also be used to visualize the lymph nodes and may be more sensitive for detecting lymph node metastases than other molecular imaging methods. Nanomaterials are expanding the ability to image the lymphatic system.