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A compound's intratumoural distribution is an important determinant for the effectiveness of molecular therapy or imaging. Antibodies (Abs), though often used in the design of targeted compounds, struggle to achieve a homogenous distribution due to their large size and bivalent binding mechanism. In contrast, smaller compounds like nanobodies (Nbs) are expected to distribute more homogenously, though this has yet to be demonstrated in vivo at the microscopic level. We propose an intravital approach to evaluate the intratumoural distribution of different fluorescently labeled monomeric and dimeric Nb tracers and compare this with a monoclonal antibody (mAb). Monomeric and dimeric formats of the anti-HER2 (2Rb17c and 2Rb17c-2Rb17c) and control (R3B23 and R3B23-R3B23) Nb, as well as the dimeric monovalent Nb 2Rb17c-R3B23 were generated and fluorescently labeled with a Cy5 fluorophore. The mAb trastuzumab-Cy5 was also prepared. Whole-body biodistribution of all constructs was investigated in mice bearing subcutaneous xenografts (HER2+ SKOV3) using in vivo epi-fluorescence imaging. Next, for intravital experiments, GFP-expressing SKOV3 cells were grown under dorsal window chambers on athymic nude mice (n = 3/group), and imaged under a fluorescence stereo microscope immediately after intravenous injection of the tracers. Consecutive fluorescence images within the tumour were acquired over the initial 20 min after injection and later, single images were taken at 1, 3 and 24 h post-injection. Additionally, two-photon microscopy was used to investigate the colocalization of GFP (tumour cells) and Cy5 fluorescence (tracers) at higher resolution. Whole-body images showed rapid renal clearance of all Nbs, and fast tumour targeting for the specific Nbs. Specific tumour uptake of the mAb could only be clearly distinguished from background after several hours. Intravital imaging revealed that monomeric Nb tracers accumulated rapidly and distributed homogenously in the tumour mere minutes after intravenous injection. The dimeric compounds initially achieved lower fluorescence intensities than the monomeric. Furthermore, whereas the HER2-specific dimeric bivalent compound remained closely associated to the blood vessels over 24 h, the HER2-specific dimeric monovalent tracer achieved a more homogenous tumour distribution from 1 h post-injection onwards. Non-specific tracers were not retained in the tumour. Trastuzumab had the most heterogenous intratumoural distribution of all evaluated compounds, while -due to the long blood retention- achieving the highest overall tumour uptake at 24 h post-injection. In conclusion, monomeric Nbs very quickly and homogenously distribute through tumour tissue, at a rate significantly greater than dimeric Nbs and mAbs. This underlines the potential of monomeric Nb tracers and therapeutics in molecular imaging and targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Volume317
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • Intravital imaging, Molecular imaging, Single-domain antibodies, Targeted therapy, Tumour distribution

ID: 48312762