Background: 5-Aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA)-induced protoporphyrin IX (PPIX) fluorescence improves the differentiation of tumor and normal tissue in the bladder, skin and brain. Objective: The kinetics of 5-ALA-induced protoporphyrin IX (PPIX) fluorescence in organ cultures of normal human bronchial epithelium and cocultures of bronchial epithelium and tumor have been studied. Methods: Cultured biopsies of bronchial epithelium were exposed for 5 or 15 min, or continuously to 5-ALA. PPIX fluorescence was quantified for up to 300 min by spectroscopy. Cocultures of normal bronchial epithelium and a non-small-cell lung cancer cell line (EPLC-32M1) were incubated with 5-ALA. Space-resolved fluorescence microscopy was used to quantify PPIX fluorescence kinetics in the tumor and normal epithelium. Results: In cultures of normal epithelium, PPIX fluorescence kinetics were shown to depend on the duration of exposure to 5-ALA. There was a trend to higher fluorescence intensities with longer exposure times. In cocultures of bronchial epithelium and tumor, increases of fluorescence intensity were significantly greater in the tumor. Best tumor/normal tissue fluorescence ratios were found between 110 and 160 min after exposure to 5-ALA. Conclusion: Data obtained in this coculture system of bronchial epithelium and tumor is valuable to optimize modalities of fluorescence bronchoscopy for the diagnosis of early bronchial carcinoma.

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