A novel luminescent Ir(iii) complex for dual mode imaging: synergistic response to hypoxia and acidity of the tumor microenvironment†
The early detection of cancer shows great promise for the control and prevention of cancer. For early detection, one of the challenges that still exists is searching for methods that can illuminate tumors with high sensitivity. Here, acidity and hypoxia, two typical features that exist universally in a solid tumor microenvironment, were focused on to attain synergistic imaging with an enhanced signal-to-noise ratio. This was realized using an iridium(III) based optical probe (Ir-1) that could sense acidity and hypoxia simultaneously and synergistically. Through the synergistic sensing of acidic pH and hypoxia, stronger emission signals or larger lifetime changes can be obtained than if a single factor (acidity or hypoxia) is used to induce variations. Furthermore, its potential for biological applications was confirmed by employing Ir-1 for phosphorescence synergistic intensity and lifetime imaging of acidity and hypoxia in live monolayer cells and 3D multicellular spheroids.