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author:("pompe, Martin")
1.  Molecular Imaging of Conscious, Unrestrained Mice with AwakeSPECT 
We have developed a SPECT imaging system, AwakeSPECT, to enable molecular brain imaging of untrained mice that are conscious, unanesthetized, and unrestrained. We accomplished this with head tracking and motion correction techniques.
The capability of the system for motion-corrected imaging was demonstrated with a 99mTc-pertechnetate phantom, 99mTcmethylene diphosphonate bone imaging, and measurement of the binding potential of the dopamine transporter radioligand 123I-ioflupane in mouse brain in the awake and anesthetized (isoflurane) states. Stress induced by imaging in the awake state was assessed through measurement of plasma corticosterone levels.
AwakeSPECT provided high-resolution bone images reminiscent of those obtained from CT. The binding potential of 123I-ioflupane in the awake state was on the order of 50% of that obtained with the animal under anesthesia, consistent with previous studies in nonhuman primates. Levels of stress induced were on the order of those seen in other behavioral tasks and imaging studies of awake animals.
These results demonstrate the feasibility of SPECT molecular brain imaging of mice in the conscious, unrestrained state and demonstrate the effects of isoflurane anesthesia on radiotracer uptake.
PMCID: PMC3965297  PMID: 23536223
awake; mouse; SPECT; anesthesia; ioflupane
2.  Cellular Bioenergetics is an Important Determinant of the Molecular Imaging Signal Derived from Luciferase and the Sodium-Iodide Symporter 
Circulation research  2012;112(3):10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.273375.
Molecular imaging is useful for longitudinal assessment of engraftment. However, it is not known which factors, other than cell number can influence the molecular imaging signal obtained from reporter genes.
The effects of cell dissociation/suspension on cellular bioenergetics and the signal obtained by firefly luciferase(fluc) and human Na-I symporter(hNIS) labeling of cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) was investigated.
Methods and Results
18FDG uptake, ATP levels, 99mTc-pertechnetate uptake and bioluminescence were measured in vitro, in adherent and suspended CDCs. In vivo dual isotope SPECT-CT imaging or bioluminescence imaging (BLI) were performed 1hr and 24hrs following CDC transplantation. SPECT quantification was performed using a phantom for signal calibration. Cell loss between 1hr & 24hrs post-transplantation was quantified by qPCR and ex vivo luciferase assay.
Cell dissociation followed by suspension for 1hr resulted in decreased glucose uptake, cellular ATP, 99mTc uptake and BLI signal by 82%, 43%, 42%, and 44% respectively, when compared to adherent cells, in vitro. In vivo 99mTc uptake was significantly lower at 1hr, when compared to 24hrs following cell transplantation in the non-infarct (p<0.001, n=3) and infarct (p<0.001, n =4) model, despite significant cell loss during this period. The in vivo BLI signal was significantly higher at 1hr than at 24hrs (p<0.01), with the BLI signal being higher when CDCs were suspended in glucose-containing medium compared to saline(PBS).
Adhesion is an important determinant of cellular bioenergetics, 99mTc-pertechnetate uptake and BLI signal. BLI and NIS imaging may be useful for in vivo optimization of bioenergetics in transplanted cells.
PMCID: PMC3863605  PMID: 23255420
Molecular imaging; metabolism; stem cell
3.  Transforming thymidine into a magnetic resonance imaging probe for monitoring gene expression 
Synthetic chemistry has revolutionized the understanding of many biological systems. Small compounds that act as agonists and antagonists of proteins, and occasionally as imaging probes, have contributed tremendously to the elucidation of many biological pathways. Nevertheless, the function of thousands of proteins is still elusive, and designing new imaging probes remains a challenge. Through screening and characterization we identified thymidine analog as probe for imaging the expression of the Herpes Simplex Virus type-1 thymidine kinase (HSV1-TK). To detect the probe, we used chemical exchange saturation transfer magnetic resonance imaging (CEST-MRI), in which a dynamic exchange process between an exchangeable proton and the surrounding water protons is used to amplify the desired contrast. Initially, five pyrimidine-based molecules were recognized as putative imaging agents, since their exchangeable imino protons resonate at 5–6ppm from the water proton frequency and their detection is therefore less affected by endogenous CEST contrast or confounded by direct water saturation. Increasing the pKa value of the imino proton by reduction of its 5,6-double bond results in a significant reduction of the exchange rate (kex) between this proton and the water protons. This reduced kex of the dihydropyrimidine nucleosides fulfills the “slow to intermediate regime” condition for generating high CEST-MRI contrast. Consequently, we identified 5-methyl-5,6-dihydrothymidine as the optimal probe and demonstrated its feasibility for in vivo imaging of the HSV1-TK. In light of these findings, this new approach can be generalized for designing specific probes for the in vivo imaging of a variety of proteins and enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3560322  PMID: 23289583
4.  Selected Approaches for Rational Drug Design and High Throughput Screening to Identify Anti-Cancer Molecules 
Structure-based modeling combined with rational drug design, and high throughput screening approaches offer significant potential for identifying and developing lead compounds with therapeutic potential. The present review focuses on these two approaches using explicit examples based on specific derivatives of Gossypol generated through rational design and applications of a cancer-specific-promoter derived from Progression Elevated Gene-3. The Gossypol derivative Sabutoclax (BI-97C1) displays potent anti-tumor activity against a diverse spectrum of human tumors. The model of the docked structure of Gossypol bound to Bcl-XL provided a virtual structure-activity-relationship where appropriate modifications were predicted on a rational basis. These structure-based studies led to the isolation of Sabutoclax, an optically pure isomer of Apogossypol displaying superior efficacy and reduced toxicity. These studies illustrate the power of combining structure-based modeling with rational design to predict appropriate derivatives of lead compounds to be empirically tested and evaluated for bioactivity. Another approach to cancer drug discovery utilizes a cancer-specific promoter as readouts of the transformed state. The promoter region of Progression Elevated Gene-3 is such a promoter with cancer-specific activity. The specificity of this promoter has been exploited as a means of constructing cancer terminator viruses that selectively kill cancer cells and as a systemic imaging modality that specifically visualizes in vivo cancer growth with no background from normal tissues. Screening of small molecule inhibitors that suppress the Progression Elevated Gene-3-promoter may provide relevant lead compounds for cancer therapy that can be combined with further structure-based approaches leading to the development of novel compounds for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3763986  PMID: 22931411
Progression Elevated Gene-3; Sabutoclax; Apogossypol; BI-97C1; Gossypol; AP-1; PEA3; ETV4; E1AF; c-fos; c-jun; Cancer Terminator Virus
5.  Biodistribution, Tumor Detection, and Radiation Dosimetry of 18F-DCFBC, a Low-Molecular-Weight Inhibitor of Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen, in Patients with Metastatic Prostate Cancer 
Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is a type II integral membrane protein expressed on the surface of prostate cancer (PCa) cells, particularly in androgen-independent, advanced, and metastatic disease. Previously, we demonstrated that N-[N-[(S)-1,3-dicarboxypropyl]carbamoyl]-4-18F-fluorobenzyl-Lcysteine (18F-DCFBC) could image an experimental model of PSMA-positive PCa using PET. Here, we describe the initial clinical experience and radiation dosimetry of 18F-DCFBC in men with metastatic PCa.
Five patients with radiologic evidence of metastatic PCa were studied after the intravenous administration of 370 MBq (10 mCi) of 18F-DCFBC. Serial PET was performed until 2 h after administration. Time- activity curves were generated for selected normal tissues and metastatic foci. Radiation dose estimates were calculated using OLINDA/EXM 1.1.
Most vascular organs demonstrated a slow decrease in radioactivity concentration over time consistent with clearance from the blood pool, with primarily urinary radiotracer excretion. Thirty-two PET-positive suspected metastatic sites were identified, with 21 concordant on both PET and conventional imaging for abnormal findings compatible with metastatic disease. Of the 11 PET-positive sites not identified on conventional imaging, most were within the bone and could be considered suggestive for the detection of early bone metastases, although further validation is needed. The highest mean absorbed dose per unit administered radioactivity (µGy/MBq) was in the bladder wall (32.4), and the resultant effective dose was 19.9 ± 1.34 µSv/MBq (mean ± SD).
Although further studies are needed for validation, our findings demonstrate the potential of 18F-DCFBC as a new positron-emitting imaging agent for the detection of metastatic PCa. This study also provides dose estimates for 18F-DCFBC that are comparable to those of other PET radiopharmaceuticals such as 18F-FDG.
PMCID: PMC3742115  PMID: 23203246
prostate-specific membrane antigen; prostate cancer; 18F; urea; PET/CT
6.  Experimental Evaluation of Depth-of-Interaction Correction in a Small-Animal Positron Emission Tomography Scanner 
Molecular imaging  2010;9(6):311-318.
Human and small-animal positron emission tomography (PET) scanners with cylindrical geometry and conventional detectors exhibit a progressive reduction in radial spatial resolution with increasing radial distance from the geometric axis of the scanner. This “depth-of-interaction” (DOI) effect is sufficiently deleterious that many laboratories have devised novel schemes to reduce the magnitude of this effect and thereby yield PET images of greater quantitative accuracy. Here we examine experimentally the effects of a particular DOI correction method (dual-scintillator phoswich detectors with pulse shape discrimination) implemented in a small-animal PET scanner by comparing the same phantom and same mouse images with and without DOI correction. The results suggest that even this relatively coarse, two-level estimate of radial gamma ray interaction position significantly reduces the DOI parallax error. This study also confirms two less appreciated advantages of DOI correction: a reduction in radial distortion and radial source displacement as a source is moved toward the edge of the field of view and a resolution improvement detectable in the central field of view likely owing to improved spatial sampling.
PMCID: PMC3700348  PMID: 21084028
7.  [32P]ATP inhibits the growth of xenografted tumors in nude mice 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(10):1878-1882.
The search for new therapeutic agents that are effective against cancer has been difficult and expensive. The activity of anticancer candidate agents against human cancer-derived cell lines in immunocompromised mice is an important tool in this search. Because ATP is a naturally occurring small molecule, its radiolabeled form poses many advantages as a potential anticancer therapeutic agent. We previously found that a single, low-dose intravenous injection of [32P]ATP inhibited the growth of xenografted tumors in nude mice for up to several weeks. The current study describes the biodistribution and the results and advantages of multi-dose administration of this potential drug. Future studies should investigate the mechanism involved in the possible use of [32P]ATP as a cytotoxic agent that homes naturally to the tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3359117  PMID: 22544324
mice; tumorinhibition; xenografts; [32P]ATP
8.  Cancer Imaging: Gene Transcription-Based Imaging and Therapeutic Systems 
Molecular-genetic imaging of cancer is in its infancy. Over the past decade gene reporter systems have been optimized in preclinical models and some have found their way into the clinic. The search is on to find the best combination of gene delivery vehicle and reporter imaging system that can be translated safely and quickly. The goal is to have a combination that can detect a wide variety of cancers with high sensitivity and specificity in a way that rivals the current clinical standard, positron emission tomography with [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose. To do so will require systemic delivery of reporter genes for the detection of micrometastases, and a nontoxic vector, whether viral or based on nanotechnology, to gain widespread acceptance by the oncology community. Merger of molecular-genetic imaging with gene therapy, a strategy that has been employed in the past, will likely be necessary for such imaging to reach widespread clinical use.
PMCID: PMC3324783  PMID: 22349219
Cancer imaging; Tumor-specific promoter; Theranostics
9.  Mechanisms of Dendritic Cell Trafficking Across the Blood–brain Barrier 
Although the central nervous system (CNS) is considered to be an immunoprivileged site, it is susceptible to a host of autoimmune as well as neuroinflammatory disorders owing to recruitment of immune cells across the blood–brain barrier into perivascular and parenchymal spaces. Dendritic cells (DCs), which are involved in both primary and secondary immune responses, are the most potent immune cells in terms of antigen uptake and processing as well as presentation to T cells. In light of the emerging importance of DC traficking into the CNS, these cells represent good candidates for targeted immunotherapy against various neuroinflammatory diseases. This review focuses on potential physiological events and receptor interactions between DCs and the microvascular endothelial cells of the brain as they transmigrate into the CNS during degeneration and injury. A clear understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in DC migration may advance the development of new therapies that manipulate these mechanistic properties via pharmacologic intervention. Furthermore, therapeutic validation should be in concurrence with the molecular imaging techniques that can detect migration of these cells in vivo. Since the use of noninvasive methods to image migration of DCs into CNS has barely been explored, we highlighted potential molecular imaging techniques to achieve this goal. Overall, information provided will bring this important leukocyte population to the forefront as key players in the immune cascade in the light of the emerging contribution of DCs to CNS health and disease.
PMCID: PMC3276728  PMID: 21822588
Dendritic cell trafficking; Lectins and integrins; Blood–brain barrier; Molecular imaging; Neuroinflammation; Microvascular endothelial cells
10.  Mouse Model of Necrotic Tuberculosis Granulomas Develops Hypoxic Lesions 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;205(4):595-602.
Background. Preclinical evaluation of tuberculosis drugs is generally limited to mice. However, necrosis and hypoxia, key features of human tuberculosis lesions, are lacking in conventional mouse strains.
Methods. We used C3HeB/FeJ mice, which develop necrotic lesions in response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Positron emission tomography in live infected animals, postmortem pimonidazole immunohistochemistry, and bacterial gene expression analyses were used to assess whether tuberculosis lesions in C3HeB/FeJ are hypoxic. Efficacy of combination drug treatment, including PA-824, active against M. tuberculosis under hypoxic conditions, was also evaluated.
Results. Tuberculosis lesions in C3HeB/FeJ (but not BALB/c) were found to be hypoxic and associated with up-regulation of known hypoxia-associated bacterial genes (P < .001). Contrary to sustained activity reported elsewhere in BALB/c mice, moxifloxacin and pyrazinamide (MZ) combination was not bactericidal beyond 3 weeks in C3HeB/FeJ. Although PA-824 added significant activity, the novel combination of PA-824 and MZ was less effective than the standard first-line regimen in C3HeB/FeJ.
Conclusions. We demonstrate that tuberculosis lesions in C3HeB/FeJ are hypoxic. Activities of some key tuberculosis drug regimens in development are represented differently in C3HeB/FeJ versus BALB/c mice. Because C3HeB/FeJ display key features of human tuberculosis, this strain warrants evaluation as a more pathologically relevant model for preclinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3266133  PMID: 22198962
11.  2-(3-{1-Carboxy-5-[(6-[18F]fluoro-pyridine-3-carbonyl)-amino]-pentyl}-ureido)-pentanedioic acid, [18F]DCFPyL, a PSMA-based PET Imaging Agent for Prostate Cancer 
We have synthesized and evaluated in vivo 2-(3-{1-carboxy-5-[(6-[18F]fluoro-pyridine-3-carbonyl)-amino]-pentyl}-ureido)-pentanedioic acid, [18F]DCFPyL, as a potential imaging agent for the prostate-specific membrane antigen, PSMA. PSMA is upregulated in prostate cancer epithelia as well as in the neovasculature of most solid tumors.
Experimental Design
[18F]DCFPyL was synthesized in two steps from the p-methoxybenzyl (PMB) protected lys-C(O)-glu urea precursor using 6-[18F]fluoronicotinic acid tetrafluorophenyl ester ([18F]F-Py-TFP) for introduction of 18F. Radiochemical synthesis was followed by biodistribution and imaging with PET in immunocompromised mice using isogenic PC3 PSMA+ and PSMA− xenograft models. Human radiation dosimetry estimates were calculated using OLINDA/EXM 1.0.
DCFPyL displays a Ki value of 1.1 ± 0.1 nM for PSMA. [18F]DCFPyL was produced in radiochemical yields of 36-53% (decay corrected) and specific radioactivities of 340 – 480 Ci/mmol (12.6 – 17.8 GBq/μmol, n = 3). In an immunocompromised mouse model [18F]DCFPyL clearly delineated PSMA+ PC3 PIP prostate tumor xenografts on imaging with PET. At 2 h post-injection, 39.4 ± 5.4 percent injected dose per gram of tissue (%ID/g) was evident within the PIP tumor, with a ratio of 358:1 of uptake within PIP to PSMA− PC3 flu tumor placed in the opposite flank. At or after 1 h post-injection, minimal non-target tissue uptake of [18F]DCFPyL was observed. The bladder wall is the dose-limiting organ.
These data suggest [18F]DCFPyL as a viable, new positron-emitting imaging agent for PSMA-expressing tissues.
PMCID: PMC3243762  PMID: 22042970
PSMA; PET; molecular imaging; prostate cancer; PC3
12.  Continuing Education Course #1: Non-Invasive Imaging as a Problem-Solving Tool and Translational Biomarker Strategy in Toxicologic Pathology 
Toxicologic pathology  2010;39(1):267-272.
The continuing education course “Non-Invasive Imaging as a Problem-Solving Tool and Translational Biomarker Strategy in Toxicologic Pathology” provided a thorough overview of commonly used imaging modalities and the logistics required for integration of small animal imaging into toxicologic pathology. Non-invasive imaging (NIN) is gaining acceptance as an important modality in toxicologic pathology. This technology allows non-terminal, time-course evaluation of functional and morphologic endpoints and can be used to translate biomarkers between preclinical animal models and human patients. Non-invasive imaging can support drug development as well as basic research in academic or industrial environments. An initial overview of theoretical principles was followed by focused presentations on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM), positron emission tomography (PET)/single proton emission computed tomography (SPECT), ultrasonography (US, primarily focused on echocardiography), optical (bioluminescent) imaging, and computed tomography (CT). The choice of imaging modality will depend on the research question and the needed resolution.
PMCID: PMC3519422  PMID: 21147931
Non-invasive imaging; magnetic resonance imaging; computed tomography; ultrasound; positron emission tomography; single proton emission computed tomography; optical imaging
13.  Decreased microglial activation in MS patients treated with glatiramer acetate 
Journal of neurology  2011;259(6):1199-1205.
Activated microglia are thought to be an important contributor to tissue damage in multiple sclerosis (MS). The level of microglial activation can be measured non-invasively using [11C]-R-PK11195, a radiopharmaceutical for positron emission tomography (PET). Prior studies have identified abnormalities in the level of [11C]-R-PK11195 uptake in patients with MS, but treatment effects have not been evaluated. Nine previously untreated relapsing-remitting MS patients underwent PET and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain at baseline and after one year of treatment with glatiramer acetate. Parametric maps of [11C]-R-PK11195 uptake were obtained for baseline and post-treatment PET scans, and the change in [11C]-R-PK11195 uptake pre- to post-treatment was evaluated across the whole brain. Region of interest analysis was also applied to selected subregions. Whole brain [11C]-R-PK11195 binding potential per unit volume decreased 3.17% (95% CI: −0.74%, −5.53%) between baseline and one year (p = 0.018). A significant decrease was noted in cortical gray matter and cerebral white matter, and a trend towards decreased uptake was seen in the putamen and thalamus. The results are consistent with a reduction in inflammation due to treatment with glatiramer acetate, though a larger controlled study would be required to prove that association. Future research will focus on whether the level of baseline microglial activation predicts future tissue damage in MS and whether [11C]-R-PK11195 uptake in cortical gray matter correlates with cortical lesion load.
PMCID: PMC3478150  PMID: 22160466
multiple sclerosis; positron emission tomography; microglia; copolymer 1; immunology; PK11195
14.  Metabolic signatures imaged in cancer-induced cachexia 
Cancer research  2011;71(22):6948-6956.
Cancer-induced cachexia is a complex and poorly understood life-threatening syndrome that is characterized by progressive weight loss due to metabolic alterations, depletion of lipid stores and severe loss of skeletal muscle protein. Gaining the ability to non-invasively image the presence or onset of cachexia is important to better treat this condition, to improve the design and optimization of therapeutic strategies, and to detect the responses to such treatments. In this study, we used noninvasive magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) and [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) to identify metabolic signatures typical of cachectic tumors, using this information to determine the types and extents of metabolic changes induced by the onset of cachexia in normal tissues. Cachexia was confirmed by weight loss as well as analyses of muscle tissue and serum. In vivo, cachexia-inducing MAC16 tumors were characterized by higher total choline (tCho) and higher 18FDG uptake compared to histologically similar non-cachectic MAC13 tumors. A profound depletion of the lipid signal was observed in normal tissue of MAC16 tumor bearing mice but not within the tumor tissue itself. High-resolution 1H MR spectroscopy (MRS) confirmed the high tCho level observed in cachectic tumors that occurred due to an increase of free choline and phosphocholine (PC). Higher succinate and lower creatine levels were also detected in cachectic tumors. Taken together, these findings enhance our understanding of cancer’s effect on host organs and tissues as well as promote the development of noninvasive biomarkers for the presence of cachexia and identification of new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3217079  PMID: 21948967
cancer-induced cachexia; magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging; 18FDG PET; metabolism
15.  Novel substrate-based inhibitors of human glutamate carboxypeptidase II with enhanced lipophilicity 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(21):7535-7546.
Virtually all low molecular weight inhibitors of human glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII) are highly polar compounds that have limited use in settings where more lipophilic molecules are desired. Here we report the identification and characterization of GCPII inhibitors with enhanced liphophilicity that are derived from a series of newly identified dipeptidic GCPII substrates featuring non-polar aliphatic side chains at the C-terminus. To analyze the interactions governing the substrate recognition by GCPII, we determined crystal structures of the inactive GCPII(E424A) mutant in complex with selected dipeptides and complemented the structural data with quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations. Results reveal the importance of non-polar interactions governing GCPII affinity towards novel substrates as well as formerly unnoticed plasticity of the S1′ specificity pocket. Based on those data, we designed, synthesized and evaluated a series of novel GCPII inhibitors with enhanced lipophilicity, with the best candidates having low nanomolar inhibition constants and clogD > -0.3. Our findings offer new insights into the design of more lipophilic inhibitors targeting GCPII.
PMCID: PMC3222833  PMID: 21923190
PSMA; NAALADase; GCPII; zinc peptidase; folate hydrolase; inhibition; quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM)
16.  Dendritic cell CNS recruitment correlates with disease severity in EAE via CCL2 chemotaxis at the blood–brain barrier through paracellular transmigration and ERK activation 
Transmigration of circulating dendritic cells (DCs) into the central nervous system (CNS) across the blood–brain barrier (BBB) has not thus far been investigated. An increase in immune cell infiltration across the BBB, uncontrolled activation and antigen presentation are influenced by chemokines. Chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) is a potent chemoattractant known to be secreted by the BBB but has not been implicated in the recruitment of DCs specifically at the BBB.
Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced in C57BL/6 mice by injection of MOG35–55 peptide and pertussis toxin intraperitoneally. Animals with increasing degree of EAE score were sacrificed and subjected to near-infrared and fluorescence imaging analysis to detect and localize the accumulation of CD11c+-labeled DCs with respect to CCL2 expression. To further characterize the direct effect of CCL2 in DC trafficking at the BBB, we utilized an in vitro BBB model consisting of human brain microvascular endothelial cells to compare migratory patterns of monocyte-derived dendritic cells, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. Further, this model was used to image transmigration using fluorescence microcopy and to assess specific molecular signaling pathways involved in transmigration.
Near-infrared imaging of DC transmigration correlated with the severity of inflammation during EAE. Ex vivo histology confirmed the presence of CCL2 in EAE lesions, with DCs emerging from perivascular spaces. DCs exhibited more efficient transmigration than T cells in BBB model studies. These observations correlated with transwell imaging, which indicated a paracellular versus transcellular pattern of migration by DCs and T cells. Moreover, at the molecular level, CCL2 seems to facilitate DC transmigration in an ERK1/2-dependent manner.
CNS recruitment of DCs correlates with disease severity in EAE via CCL2 chemotaxis and paracellular transmigration across the BBB, which is facilitated by ERK activation. Overall, these comprehensive studies provide a state-of-the-art view of DCs within the CNS, elucidate their path across the BBB, and highlight potential mechanisms involved in CCL2-mediated DC trafficking.
PMCID: PMC3533869  PMID: 23102113
MCP-1; Chemokine ligand 2; Dendritic cell central nervous system trafficking; Blood–brain barrier; Near-infrared fluorescence imaging; Neuroinflammation; Brain microvascular endothelial cells
18.  Hypoxia Regulates CD44 and Its Variant Isoforms through HIF-1α in Triple Negative Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e44078.
The CD44 transmembrane glycoproteins play multifaceted roles in tumor progression and metastasis. CD44 expression has also been associated with stem-like breast cancer cells. Hypoxia commonly occurs in tumors and is a major cause of radiation and chemo-resistance. Hypoxia is known to inhibit differentiation and facilitates invasion and metastasis. Here we have investigated the effect of hypoxia on CD44 and two of its isoforms in MDA-MB-231 and SUM-149 triple negative human breast cancer cells and MDA-MB-231 tumors using imaging and molecular characterization.
Methods and Findings
The roles of hypoxia and hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) in regulating the expression of CD44 and its variant isoforms (CD44v6, CD44v7/8) were investigated in human breast cancer cells, by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to determine mRNA levels, and fluorescence associated cell sorting (FACS) to determine cell surface expression of CD44, under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. In vivo imaging studies with tumor xenografts derived from MDA-MD-231 cells engineered to express tdTomato red fluorescence protein under regulation of hypoxia response elements identified co-localization between hypoxic fluorescent regions and increased concentration of 125I-radiolabeled CD44 antibody.
Our data identified HIF-1α as a regulator of CD44 that increased the number of CD44 molecules and the percentage of CD44 positive cells expressing variant exons v6 and v7/8 in breast cancer cells under hypoxic conditions. Data from these cell studies were further supported by in vivo observations that hypoxic tumor regions contained cells with a higher concentration of CD44 expression.
PMCID: PMC3429433  PMID: 22937154
19.  High-Throughput Screen Identifies Novel Inhibitors of Cancer Biomarker α-Methylacyl Coenzyme A Racemase (AMACR/P504S) 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(5):825-838.
Alpha-methylacyl coenzyme A racemase (AMACR) is a metabolic enzyme whose over-expression has been shown to be a diagnostic indicator of prostatic adenocarcinoma as well as other solid tumors. Here we confirm that attenuation of AMACR expression diminishes the growth of prostate cancer cell lines using stably expressed shRNA constructs. This observation strongly suggests that the AMACR enzyme may be a target for therapeutic inhibition in prostate cancer. To this end, we report here a novel assay capable of screening libraries of diverse small molecules for inhibitors of AMACR activity. This assay facilitated the screening of approximately 5,000 unique compounds and the discovery of seven distinct chemical entities capable of inhibiting AMACR at low micromolar concentrations. The most potent inhibitor discovered is the seleno-organic compound ebselen oxide (IC50:0.80 μM). The parent compound, ebselen (IC50:2.79 μM), is a covalent inactivator of AMACR (KI(inact):24 μM). Two of the AMACR inhibitors appear selectively toxic to prostate cancer cell lines (LAPC4/LNCaP/PC3) that express AMACR compared to a normal prostate fibroblast cell line (WPMY1) that does not express the protein. This report demonstrates the first high-throughput screen for the discovery of novel AMACR inhibitors, characterizes the first non-substrate based inhibitors, and validates that AMACR is a viable chemotherapeutic target in-vitro.
PMCID: PMC3423201  PMID: 21441411
High-Throughput; Inhibitor; AMACR; Prostate Cancer; Racemase; Screen; Assay; Imaging
20.  Ovarian Cancer Gene Therapy Using HPV-16 Pseudovirion Carrying the HSV-tk Gene 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40983.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from all gynecological cancers and conventional therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy usually fail to control advanced stages of the disease. Thus, there is an urgent need for alternative and innovative therapeutic options. We reason that cancer gene therapy using a vector capable of specifically delivering an enzyme-encoding gene to ovarian cancer cells will allow the cancer cell to metabolize a harmless prodrug into a potent cytotoxin, which will lead to therapeutic effects. In the current study, we explore the use of a human papillomavirus (HPV) pseudovirion to deliver a herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-tk) gene to ovarian tumor cells. We found that the HPV-16 pseudovirion was able to preferentially infect murine and human ovarian tumor cells when administered intraperitoneally. Furthermore, intraperitoneal injection of HPV-16 pseudovirions carrying the HSV-tk gene followed by treatment with ganciclovir led to significant therapeutic anti-tumor effects in murine ovarian cancer-bearing mice. Our data suggest that HPV pseudovirion may serve as a potential delivery vehicle for ovarian cancer gene therapy.
PMCID: PMC3398866  PMID: 22815887
21.  [125I]FIAU imaging in a preclinical model of lung infection: quantification of bacterial load 
2'-Fluoro-2'-deoxy-1β-D-arabinofuranosyl-5-[125I]iodouracil ([125I]FIAU), a substrate for the thymidine kinase (TK) present in most bacteria, has been used as an imaging agent for single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in an experimental model of lung infection. Using SPECT-CT we show that [125I]FIAU is specific for bacterial infection rather than sterile inflammation. We report [125I]FIAU lung uptake values of 1.26 ± 0.20 percent injected dose per gram (%ID/g) in normal controls, 1.69 ± 0.32 %ID/g in lung inflammation and up to 7.14 ± 1.09 %ID/g in lung infection in ex vivo biodistribution studies at 24 h after intranasal administration of bacteria. Images of [125I]FIAU signal within lung can be used to estimate the number of bacteria present, with a limit of detection of 109 colony forming units per mL on the X-SPECT scanner. [125I]FIAU-Based bacterial imaging may be useful in preclinical models to facilitate the development of new antibiotics, particularly in cases where a corresponding human trial is planned.
PMCID: PMC3477740  PMID: 23133816
Inflammation; thymidine kinase; nucleoside; SPECT; PET; molecular imaging
22.  Imaging Virus-Associated Cancer 
Current Pharmaceutical Design  2008;14(28):3048-3065.
Cancer remains an important and growing health problem. Researchers have made great progress in defining genetic and molecular alterations that contribute to cancer formation and progression. Molecular imaging can identify appropriate patients for targeted cancer therapy and may detect early biochemical changes in tumors during therapy, some of which may have important prognostic implications. Progress in this field continues largely due to a union between molecular genetics and advanced imaging technology. This review details uses of molecular-genetic imaging in the context of tumor-associated viruses. Under certain conditions, and particularly during pharmacologic stimulation, gammaherpesviruses will express genes that enable imaging and therapy in vivo. The techniques discussed are readily translatable to the clinic.
PMCID: PMC3369625  PMID: 18991718
EBV; molecular imaging; FIAU; bortezomib; thymidine kinase
23.  68Ga-Labeled Inhibitors of Prostate-Specific Membrane antigen (PSMA) for Imaging Prostate Cancer 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2010;53(14):5333-5341.
Gallium-68 is a generator-produced radionuclide for positron emission tomography (PET) that is being increasingly used for radiolabeling of tumor-targeting peptides. Compounds [68Ga]3 and [68Ga]6 are high-affinity, urea-based inhibitors of the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) that were synthesized in decay-uncorrected yields ranging from 60 – 70% and radiochemical purities of more than 99%. Compound [68Ga]3 demonstrated 3.78 ± 0.90 percent injected dose per gram of tissue (%ID/g) within PSMA+ PIP tumor at 30 min post-injection, while [68Ga]6 showed a two hour PSMA+ PIP tumor uptake value of 3.29 ± 0.77%ID/g. Target (PSMA+ PIP) to non-target (PSMA− flu) ratios were 4.6 and 18.3, respectively, at those time points. Both compounds delineated tumor clearly by small animal PET. The urea series of imaging agents for PSMA can be radiolabeled with 68Ga, a cyclotron-free isotope useful for clinical PET studies, with maintenance of target specificity.
PMCID: PMC3341619  PMID: 20568777
gallium; molecular imaging; positron emission tomography; prostate-specific membrane antigen; radiopharmaceutical
24.  Characterization of a targeted nanoparticle functionalized with a urea-based inhibitor of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) 
Cancer biology & therapy  2008;7(6):974-982.
Polymeric nanoparticles represent a form of targeted therapy due to their ability to passively accumulate within the tumor interstitium via the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. We used a combined approach to decorate the surface of a nanoparticle with a urea-based small-molecule peptidomimetic inhibitor of prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is expressed by normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells and by the neovasculature of almost all solid tumors. This strategy takes advantage of both the avidity of the functionalized nanoparticle for binding to PSMA and the ability of the nanoparticle to be retained for longer periods of time in the tumor due to enhanced leakage via EPR into the tumor interstitium. As an initial step to introducing the targeting moiety, the amino terminus of the small-molecule PSMA inhibitor was conjugated to PEG (Mn 3400) bearing an activated carboxyl group to obtain a PEGylated inhibitor. Studies undertaken using a radiolabeled PSMA-substrate based assay established that the PEGylated inhibitor had an IC50 value similar to the uncomplexed inhibitor. Subsequently, nanoparticles loaded with docetaxel were formulated using a mixture of poly(lactide-β-ethylene glycol-β-lactide) and PSMA-inhibitor bound α-amino-ω-hydroxy terminated poly (ethylene glycol-β-ε-caprolactone). In vitro studies using these nanoparticles demonstrated selective cytotoxicity against PSMA-producing cells. Binding of fluorescently labeled PSMA-targeted particles to PSMA-producing cells has also been directly observed using fluorescence microscopy and observed in secondary fashion using a PSMA substrate based enzyme inhibition assay. Ongoing in vivo studies address the localization, activity and toxicity of these targeted nanoparticles against PSMA-producing human prostate tumor xenografts.
PMCID: PMC3341659  PMID: 18698158
nanoparticle; docetaxel; polyethlene glycol; PSMA; prostate cancer; targeted
25.  New Agents and Techniques for Imaging Prostate Cancer 
Journal of Nuclear Medicine  2009;50(9):1387-1390.
The successful management of prostate cancer requires early detection, appropriate risk assessment, and optimum treatment. An unmet goal of prostate cancer imaging is to differentiate indolent from aggressive tumors, as treatment may vary for different grades of the disease. Different modalities have been tested to diagnose, stage, and monitor prostate cancer during therapy. This review briefly describes the key clinical issues in prostate cancer imaging and therapy and summarizes the various new imaging modalities and agents in use and on the horizon.
PMCID: PMC3336101  PMID: 19690043
molecular imaging; MRI; PET; SPECT; radiopharmaceutical

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