Multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) represents a new in vivo imaging technique with high resolution (~250 μm) and tissue penetration (>1 cm) using the photoacoustic effect. While ultrasound contains anatomical information for lesion detection, MSOT provides functional information based on intrinsic tissue chromophores. We aimed to evaluate the feasibility of combined ultrasound/MSOT imaging of breast cancer in patients compared to healthy volunteers.

Imaging was performed using a handheld MSOT system for clinical use in healthy volunteers (n = 6) and representative patients with histologically confirmed invasive breast carcinoma (n = 5) and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS, n = 2). MSOT values for haemoglobin and oxygen saturation were assessed at 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 cm depth and selected wavelengths between 700 and 850 nm.

Reproducible signals were obtained in all wavelengths with consistent MSOT signals in superficial tissue in breasts of healthy individuals. In contrast, we found increased signals for haemoglobin in invasive carcinoma, suggesting a higher perfusion of the tumour and tumour environment. For DCIS, MSOT values showed only little variation compared to healthy tissue.

This preliminary MSOT breast imaging study provided stable, reproducible data on tissue composition and physiological properties, potentially enabling differentiation of solid malignant and healthy tissue.

• A handheld MSOT probe enables real-time molecular imaging of the breast.
• MSOT of healthy controls provides a reproducible reference for pathology identification.
• MSOT parameters allows for differentiation of invasive carcinoma and healthy tissue