BACKGROUND: Nanobodies, derived from camelid antibodies made of only heavy chains, are the smallest, biologic, antigen-binding fragments (~15kDa) with faster pharmacokinetics and better tumor penetration efficiency than standard antibodies. The present study evaluates the efficacy of a fluorescent, anti-carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) nanobody for rapid tumor labeling in an orthotopic mouse model of pancreatic cancer.

METHODS: Anti-CEA or control nanobodies were conjugated with the near-infrared fluorophore IRDye 800CW. Fragments of BxPC-3 (high-CEA expressing) or MiaPACA-2 (low-CEA expressing) human pancreatic cancer cell lines were orthotopically implanted into the pancreatic tail of nude mice. After tumors reached 7 to 10 mm in size, 2 nmol anti-CEA or control nanobody-IRDye800CW were injected intravenously. Mice were imaged at various time points hours post-injection.

RESULTS: Anti-CEA nanobodies clearly labeled BxPC3 orthotopic pancreatic tumors 3 hours after injection. The signal was present as early as 15 minutes after injection and was robust at 1 to 3 hours after injection with a tumor-to-background ratio of 2.66. In contrast, there was very low accumulation in the low CEA-expressing, MiaPACA2 pancreatic orthotopic tumors. The fluorophore-conjugated nanobody was specific for CEA-expressing tumors, while the control nanobody did not show any tumor-specific signal. Both nanobodies had strong kidney uptake as expected for small-molecule probes. The fluorescence signal was detectable using 2 clinical, Food and Drug Administration-approved, 800 nm imaging devices as well as small animal imaging systems.

CONCLUSION: This anti-CEA, nanobody-based, fluorescent probe labeled pancreatic orthotopic tumors within 15 minutes of intravenous injection. Fluorescent anti-CEA nanobodies have labeling kinetics that approach the speed of nonspecific dyes such as indocyanine green but with the specificity of antibodies. The use of fluorescently-labeled, intact antibodies leads to a labeling delay of 48 to 96 hours between probe administration and the necessarily delayed time of operation, which can be avoided with nanobodies. The kinetics of a nanobody-based probe makes it a practical agent for same-day, patient administration and fluorescence-guided surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-91
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

ID: 51827498