C-X-C chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) is over-expressed in multiple human cancers and correlates with tumor aggressiveness, poor prognosis and increased risk for distant metastases. Imaging agents for CXCR4 are thus highly desirable. We developed a novel CXCR4-targeted near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent probe (Peptide R-NIR750) conjugating the new developed CXCR4 peptidic antagonist Peptide R with the NIR fluorescent dye VivoTag-S750. Specific CXCR4 binding was obtained in cells overexpressing human CXCR4 (B16-hCXCR4 and human melanoma cells PES43), but not in CXCR4 low expressing cells (FB-1). Ex vivo evaluation demonstrated that PepR-NIR750 specifically detects B16-hCXCR4-derived subcutaneous tumors and lung metastases. Fluorescence Molecular Tomography (FMT) in vivo imaging was performed on mice carrying subcutaneous CHO and CHO-CXCR4 tumors. PepR-NIR750 accumulates only in CXCR4-positive expressing subcutaneous tumors. Additionally, an intense NIR fluorescence signal was detected in PES43-derived lung metastases of nude mice injected with PepR-NIR750 versus mice injected with VivoTag-S750. With a therapeutic intent, mice bearing PES43-derived lung metastases were treated with Peptide R. A the dramatic reduction in PES43-derived lung metastases was detected through a decrease of the PepR-NIR750 signal. PepR-NIR750 is a specific probe for non-invasive detection of human high CXCR4-expressing tumors and metastatic lesion and thus a valuable tool for cancer molecular imaging.
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