Surgical cure of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) remains hampered by inadequately resected tumors and poor recognition of lesions with malignant potential. BLZ-100 is a chlorotoxin-based, tumor-targeting agent that has not yet been studied in HNSCC.To evaluate BLZ-100 uptake in models of HNSCC and oral dysplasia.This was an observational study (including sensitivity and specificity analysis) of BLZ-100 uptake in an orthotopic xenograft mouse model of HNSCC and a carcinogen-induced dysplasia model of hamster cheek pouches.Various HNSCC xenografts were established in the tongues of NOD-scid IL2Rgammanull (NSG) mice. BLZ-100 was intravenously injected and fluorescence uptake was measured. To induce dysplasia, the carcinogen 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) was applied to the cheek pouch of Golden Syrian hamsters for 9 to16 weeks. BLZ-100 was subcutaneously injected, and fluorescence uptake was measured.The signal-to-background ratio (SBR) of BLZ-100 was measured in tumor xenografts. To calculate the sensitivity and specificity of BLZ-100 uptake, a digital grid was placed over tissue sections and correlative histologic sections to discretely measure fluorescence intensity and presence of tumor; a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was then plotted. In the hamster dysplasia model, cheeks were graded according to dysplasia severity. The SBR of BLZ-100 was compared among dysplasia grades.In HNSCC xenografts, BLZ-100 demonstrated a mean (SD) SBR of 2.51 (0.47). The ROC curve demonstrated an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.89; an SBR of 2.50 corresponded to 92% sensitivity and 74% specificity. When this analysis was focused on the tumor and nontumor interface, the AUC increased to 0.97; an SBR of 2.50 corresponded to 95% sensitivity and 91% specificity. DMBA treatment of hamster cheek pouches generated lesions representing all grades of dysplasia. The SBR of high-grade dysplasia was significantly greater than that of mild-to-moderate dysplasia (2.31 [0.71] vs 1.51 [0.34], P?=?.006).BLZ-100 is a sensitive and specific marker of HNSCC and can distinguish high-risk from low-risk dysplasia. BLZ-100 has the potential to serve as an intraoperative guide for tumor margin excision and identification of premalignant lesions.
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