Molecular Imaging and Biology

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 722–729 | Cite as

Preclinical Comparison of Near-Infrared-Labeled Cetuximab and Panitumumab for Optical Imaging of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Kristine E. Day
  • Larissa Sweeny
  • Brian Kulbersh
  • Kurt R. Zinn
  • Eben L. RosenthalEmail author
Research Article



Though various targets have been proposed and evaluated, no agent has yet been investigated in a clinical setting for head and neck cancer. The present study aimed to compare two fluorescently labeled anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies for detection of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).


Antigen specificities and in vitro imaging of the fluorescently labeled anti-EGFR antibodies were performed. Next, immunodeficient mice (n = 22) bearing HNSCC (OSC-19 and SCC-1) tongue tumors received systemic injections of cetuximab-IRDye800CW, panitumumab-IRDye800CW, or IgG-IRDye800CW (a nonspecific control). Tumors were imaged and resected using two near-infrared imaging systems, SPY and Pearl. Fluorescent lymph nodes were also identified, and all resected tissues were sent for pathology.


Panitumumab-IRDye800CW and cetuximab-IRDye800CW had specific and high affinity binding for EGFR (K D = 0.12 and 0.31 nM, respectively). Panitumumab-IRDye800CW demonstrated a 2-fold increase in fluorescence intensity compared to cetuximab-IRDye800CW in vitro. In vivo, both fluorescently labeled antibodies produced higher tumor-to-background ratios compared to IgG-IRDye800CW. However, there was no significant difference between the two in either cell line or imaging modality (OSC-19: p = 0.08 SPY, p = 0.48 Pearl; SCC-1: p = 0.77 SPY, p = 0.59 Pearl; paired t tests).


There was no significant difference between the two fluorescently labeled anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies in murine models of HNSCC. Both cetuximab and panitumumab can be considered suitable targeting agents for fluorescent intraoperative detection of HNSCC.

Key words

Aerodigestive squamous cell carcinoma Head and neck Near-infrared imaging Epidermal growth factor receptor 



The authors would like to thank Yolanda Hartman for running the rEGFR assay and Dr. Andra Frost for assistance in pathologic examination of tissue samples.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no financial disclosures or conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© World Molecular Imaging Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristine E. Day
    • 1
  • Larissa Sweeny
    • 1
  • Brian Kulbersh
    • 1
  • Kurt R. Zinn
    • 2
  • Eben L. Rosenthal
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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