Abstract— The ability to optically image or detect diseased tissue volumes located deep within tissues depends upon the degree of contrast provided by differences in local optical properties. In this report, we show that the exogenous contrast offered by fluorescent compounds is superior to that provided by nonfluorescing, light-absorbing compounds when time-dependent measurements are employed. In addition, we show that the induced contrast is not only moderated by the preferential uptake of fluorescent agents into diseased tissue volumes of interest but also by the fluorescent optical properties and the fluorescence dynamics in the specific tissue volume. Using tissue phantom studies, we demonstrated experimentally that near-infrared-absorbing and fluorescent dyes such as in-docyanine green can provide detection of diseased tissue volumes from fluorescence measurements made at the periphery of tissue when there is perfect, 100-fold and 10-fold partitioning in diseased tissues over that in surrounding normal tissues. Experimental results of common laser dyes show the contrast is also mediated by the quantum yield and lifetime parameters that may be dependent upon the local tissue environment.