Liu TW, Akens MK, Chen J, Wise-Milestone L, Wilson BC & Zheng G
Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2011

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Approximately 85% of patients with advanced cases will develop spinal metastases. The vertebral column is the most common site of breast cancer metastases, where overexpression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) promotes the spread of cancer. Current therapies have significant limitations due to the high associated risk of damaging the spinal cord. An attractive alternative is photodynamic therapy providing noninvasive and site-selective treatment. However, current photosensitizers are limited by their nonspecific accumulation. Photodynamic molecular beacons (PPMMPB), activated by MMPs, offer another level of PDT selectivity and image-guidance preserving criticial tissues, specifically the spinal cord. Metastatic human breast carcinoma cells, MT-1, were used to model the metastatic behavior of spinal lesions. In vitro and in vivo evidence demonstrates MMP specific activation of PPMMPB in MT-1 cells. Using a clinically relevant metastatic model, fluorescent imaging establishes the specific activation of PPMMPB by vertebral metastases versus normal tissue (i.e., spinal cord) demonstrating the specificity of these beacons. Here, we validate that the metastasis-selective mechanism of PPMMPBs can specifically image breast cancer vertebral metastases, thereby differentiating tumor and healthy tissue.

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