Paper published in ‘Diagnostics’
The manuscript entitled “VEGF-Targeted Multispectral Optoacoustic Tomography and Fluorescence Molecular Imaging in Human Carotid Atherosclerotic Plaques” can be found here
Vulnerable atherosclerotic carotid plaques are prone to rupture, resulting in ischemic strokes. In contrast to radiological imaging techniques, molecular imaging techniques have the potential to assess plaque vulnerability by visualizing diseases-specific biomarkers. A risk factor for rupture is intra-plaque neovascularization, which is characterized by overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A). Here, we study if administration of bevacizumab-800CW, a near-infrared tracer targeting VEGF-A, is safe and if molecular assessment of atherosclerotic carotid plaques in vivo is possible using multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT). Healthy volunteers and patients with symptomatic carotid artery stenosis scheduled for carotid artery endarterectomy were imaged with MSOT. Secondly, patients were imaged two days after intravenous administration of 4.5 bevacizumab-800CW. Ex vivo fluorescence molecular imaging of the surgically removed plaque specimen was performed and correlated with histopathology. In this first-in-human MSOT and fluorescence molecular imaging study, we show that administration of 4.5 mg bevacizumab-800CW appeared to be safe in five patients and accumulated in the carotid atherosclerotic plaque. Although we could visualize the carotid bifurcation area in all subjects using MSOT, bevacizumab-800CW-resolved signal could not be detected with MSOT in the patients. Future studies should evaluate tracer safety, higher doses of bevacizumab-800CW or develop dedicated contrast agents for carotid atherosclerotic plaque assessment using MSOT.
Keywords: atherosclerotic plaque; carotid stenosis; fluorescence; molecular imaging; pathologic angiogenesis; photoacoustic techniques; risk assessment.