In vivo photoacoustic lifetime imaging of tumor hypoxia in small animals

Qi Shao, Ekaterina Morgounova, Chunlan Jiang, Jeunghwan Choi, John Bischof, Shai Ashkenazi

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69 Scopus citations


Tumor hypoxia is an important factor in assessment of both cancer progression and cancer treatment efficacy. This has driven a substantial effort toward development of imaging modalities that can directly measure oxygen distribution and therefore hypoxia in tissue. Although several approaches to measure hypoxia exist, direct measurement of tissue oxygen through an imaging approach is still an unmet need. To address this, we present a new approach based on in vivo application of photoacoustic lifetime imaging (PALI) to map the distribution of oxygen partial pressure (pO2) in tissue. This method utilizes methylene blue, a dye widely used in clinical applications, as an oxygen-sensitive imaging agent. PALI measurement of oxygen relies upon pO 2-dependent excitation lifetime of the dye. A multimodal imaging system was designed and built to achieve ultrasound (US), photoacoustic, and PALI imaging within the same system. Nude mice bearing LNCaP xenograft hindlimb tumors were used as the target tissue. Hypoxic regions were identified within the tumor in a combined US/PALI image. Finally, the statistical distributions of pO2 in tumor, normal, and control tissues were compared with measurements by a needle-mounted oxygen probe. A statistically significant drop in mean pO2 was consistently detected by both methods in tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number076019
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Mr. Clay Sheaff for his close reading of the manuscript and valuable comments. This work was sponsored by National Institutes of Health grant R21 CA135027.


  • methylene blue
  • pO
  • photoacoustic lifetime imaging.
  • tissue oxygen
  • tumor hypoxia


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