A novel technique for tumor localization and targeted lymphatic mapping in early-stage lung cancer

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To investigate safety and feasibility of navigational bronchoscopy (NB)-guided near-infrared (NIR) localization of small, ill-defined lung lesions and sentinel lymph nodes (SLN) for accurate staging in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


Patients with known or suspected stage I NSCLC were enrolled in a prospective pilot trial for lesion localization and SLN mapping via NB-guided NIR marking. Successful localization, SLN detection rates, histopathologic status of SLN versus overall nodes, and concordance to initial clinical stage were measured. Ex vivo confirmation of NIR+ SLNs and adverse events were recorded.


Twelve patients underwent NB-guided marking with indocyanine green of lung lesions ranging in size from 0.4 to 2.2 cm and located 0.1 to 3 cm from the pleural surface. An NIR+ “tattoo” was identified in all cases. Ten patients were diagnosed with NSCLC and 9 SLNs were identified in 8 of the 10 patients, resulting in an 80% SLN detection rate. SLN pathologic status was 100% sensitive and specific for overall nodal status with no false-negative results. Despite previous nodal sampling, one patient was found to have metastatic disease in the SLN alone, a 12.5% rate of disease upstaging with NIR SLN mapping. SLN were detectable for up to 3 hours, allowing time for obtaining a tissue diagnosis and surgical resection. There were no adverse events associated with NB-labeling or indocyanine green dye itself.


NB-guided NIR lesion localization and SLN identification was safe and feasible. This minimally invasive image-guided technique may permit the accurate localization and nodal staging of early stage lung cancers.

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