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Tissue and In Vivo Imaging in Breast Cancer Researches

Tissue and In Vivo Imaging in Breast Cancer Researches


Quantum dots-based tissue imaging is an important imaging technique and has emerged as a promising tool in different types of breast cancer research due to its outstanding optical properties. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers for women around the world. Breast cancer is a highly heterogeneous disease, with different biological behaviors for the same stage of breast cancer patients. Optical imaging is the best method to detect and image lymph systems in case of Breast cancer. Cancer imaging, including macroscopic cancer imaging techniques (magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI) and microscopic cancer imaging techniques (immunofluorescence), play critical roles in cancer detection, cancer treatment, prognosis evaluation, and disease course monitoring. The traditional imaging techniques are not perfect for acquiring more specific and unique information on Breast Cancer biology. The latest imaging techniques to reveal multi-dimensional information clearly and precisely are urgently needed in cancer diagnosis. Optical-based nanoparticle imaging is an important branch of nanotechnology, such as quantum dots (QDs)-based imaging, which gives a promising potential application in cancer research. These optical advantages of QDs-based imaging have been widely applied in cancer research.

Breast Cancer

Properties of Quantum Dots (QDs)

The majority of QDs are nanocrystal semiconductors with core sizes ranging (from 2 to 10 nm) and composed of two kinds of atoms from the II group and VI group elements of the periodic table of elements. When QDs are excited by high external-energy light, the internal electron of QDs will excite from its ground state to a higher level, and The high- level electron relaxes and returns to the ground state during the whole process of a photon is emitted, producing fluorescence. Bandgap energy is the minimum energy required to excite an electron from its ground state to a higher level, which is dependent on the size of the complex; the larger the size, the smaller the bandgap. QDs have narrow emission and wide excitation spectrum advantages; due to the small size, the entire Quantum dots particle could behave like a single molecule with the atoms exciting and emitting light simultaneously and producing high signal intensity in the form of a strong fluorescence.

Biomarker Interaction of Quantum Dots

The traditional methods are available to obtain a piece of single biomarker information at one time, such as immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, and Western blotting. These methods have one common drawback, which is they cannot obtain in situ quantitative information along with morphological features for multiple biomarkers. The development of QDs-based multiplexed imaging shows enormous potential for in situ multiplexed imaging to reveal the interactions of different molecules. QDs-based multiplexed imaging has also been used to simultaneously reveal the dynamic interactions between biomarkers in the tumor microenvironment and cancer cells. With the advent of biology, many prognostic biomarkers hidden in Breast cancer lumps have been discovered. The accurate quantification and Specific labeling of those prognostic biomarkers are the key procedures to evaluating Breast Cancer prognosis. QDs-based imaging and quantitative spectral analysis on biomarkers of Breast cancer were developed and showed correlation and consistency, with better image quality and sensitivity. QDs-based imaging was as informative and useful as multi-genes analysis at a lower cost. Quantum-based imaging methods could have more potential in clinical applications than multi-gene assays, especially in developing countries where multi-gene analysis is found expensive for patients. These studies demonstrated that QDs-based multiplexed imaging might be a promising strategy for more accurate diagnostic pathology.

Quantum Dots-Based Imaging to Detect Breast Cancer

The early detection and Targeted imaging of metastasis in metastatic cancer, the major cause of cancer mortality, could help initiate effective therapy to improve breast cancer patient's prognosis and cancer treatment. Currently, used imaging techniques are difficult to achieve early detection because those imaging techniques can only detect a tumor when the tumor cells grow up to a normal tissue structure. The QDs-based imaging could help achieve earlier detection by imaging cancer tumor cells, even single tumor cells in vivo. An early metastasis diagnosis that takes place long before the development of obvious metastasis is known as micrometastasis, and such micrometastasis is within the diameter range of 0.2 to 2.0 mm, now considered a powerful prognostic factor for Breast cancer. Traditional imaging fails to reveal such micrometastasis due to low resolution. In contrast, QDs could be designed to distinguish non-target tissues from rare target cells due to their strong fluorescence intensity and high photostability. Another important advantage of QDs-based imaging for micrometastasis of Breast cancer is, that it can rapidly distinguish between small metastasis and complex non-tumor tissues because of its strong target imaging and strong fluorescence.

Breast Cancer


  • There are some serious limitations, including inherent toxicity, poor biocompatibility, and lack of multiplexed imaging.
  • The currently used Quantum dots contain heavy metal elements such as Cd, As, Pb, Te, and Hg, posing potential adverse effects on living systems. The heavy metal core of QDs could induce early-stage mouse blastocyst death both in vitro and in vivo.
  • The analytical systems should be systematically improved to further promote their use in cancer research.

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  1. Wang LW, Peng CW, Chen C, Li Y. Quantum dots-based tissue and in vivo, imaging in breast cancer researches current status and future perspectives. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2015 May;151(1):7-17. doi: 10.1007/s10549-015-3363-x. Epub 2015 Apr 2. PMID: 25833213; PMCID: PMC4408370.

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