Prospective validation of tumor folate receptor expression density with the association of pafolacianine fluorescence during intraoperative molecular imaging-guided lung cancer resections.

Publication/Presentation Date



PURPOSE: Pafolacianine, a folate receptor alpha-targeted NIR tracer, has demonstrated clear efficacy in intraoperative molecular imaging-guided (IMI) lung cancer surgery. However, the selection of patients who would benefit from IMI remains challenging given the variability of fluorescence with patient-associated and histopathologic factors. Our goal in this study was to prospectively evaluate whether preoperative FRα/FRβ staining can predict pafolacianine-based fluorescence during real-time lung cancer resections.

METHODS: This was a prospective study conducted between 2018 and 2022 that reviewed core biopsy and intraoperative data from patients with suspected lung cancer. A total of 196 patients were deemed eligible, of whom core biopsies were taken from 38 patients and assessed for FRα and FRβ expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). All patients underwent infusion of pafolacianine 24 h prior to surgery. Intraoperative fluorescence images were captured with the VisionSense bandpass filter-enabled camera. All histopathologic assessments were performed by a board-certified thoracic pathologist.

RESULTS: Of the 38 patients, 5 (13.1%) were found to have benign lesions (necrotizing granulomatous inflammation, lymphoid aggregates) and 1 had metastatic non-lung nodule. Thirty (81.5%) had malignant lesions, with the vast majority (23, 77.4%) being lung adenocarcinoma (7 (22.5%) SCC). None of the benign tumors (0/5, 0%) exhibited in vivo fluorescence (mean TBR of 1.72), while 95% of the malignant tumors fluoresced (mean TBR of 3.11 ± 0.31) compared to squamous cell carcinoma (1.89 ± 0.29) of the lung and sarcomatous lung metastasis (2.32 ± 0.09) (p < 0.01). The TBR was significantly higher in the malignant tumors (p = 0.009). The median FRα and FRβ staining intensities were both 1.5 for benign tumors, while the FRα and FRβ staining intensities were 3 and 2 for malignant tumors, respectively. Increased FRα expression was significantly associated with the presence of fluorescence (p = 0.01), CONCLUSION: This prospective study sought to determine whether preoperative FRα and FRβ expression on core biopsy IHC correlates with intraoperative fluorescence during pafolacianine-guided surgery. These results, although of small sample size, including limited non-adenocarcinoma cohort, suggest that performing FRα IHC on preoperative core biopsies of adenocarcinomas as compared to squamous cell carcinomas could provide low-cost, clinically useful information for optimal patient selection which should be further explored in advanced clinical trials.





First Page


Last Page





Medicine and Health Sciences




Fellows and Residents

Document Type