Design and preclinical evaluation of nanostars for the passive pretargeting of tumor tissue

Jeroen A C M Goos, Maria Davydova, Thomas R. Dilling, Andrew Cho, Mike A. Cornejo, Abhishek Gupta, William S. Price, Simon Puttick, Michael R. Whittaker, John F. Quinn, Thomas P. Davis, Jason S. Lewis

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Introduction: Pretargeting strategies that do not rely on the expression of molecular targets have expanded imaging and therapy options for cancer patients. Nanostars with designed multivalency and which highly accumulate in tumor tissue via the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect may therefore be the ideal vectors for the development of a passive pretargeting approach. 

Methods: Nanostars were synthesized, consisting of 7–8 center-cross-linked arms that were modified with trans-cyclooctene (TCO) using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) linkers of 12 or 106 monomer units or without linker. The bioorthogonal click reaction with radiofluorinated 2,2′-(7-(2-(tetrazine-poly(ethyleneglycol)11-amino)-2-oxoethyl)-1,4,7-triazonane-1,4-diyl)diacetic acid ([18F]F-Tz-PEG11-NODA) or 2,2′-(7-(2-(tetrazine-amino)-2-oxoethyl)-1,4,7-triazonane-1,4-diyl)diacetic acid ([18F]F-Tz-NODA) was measured by ex vivo biodistribution studies and positron emission tomography (PET) in mice bearing tumors with high EPR characteristics. Bioorthogonal masking was performed using a tetrazine-functionalized dextran polymer (Tz-DP). 

Results: Highest tumor accumulation of [18F]F-Tz-PEG11-NODA was observed for nanostars functionalized with TCO without linker, with a tumor uptake of 3.2 ± 0.4%ID/g and a tumor-to-muscle ratio of 12.8 ± 4.2, tumor-to-large intestine ratio of 0.5 ± 0.3 and tumor-to-kidney ratio of 2.0 ± 0.3, being significantly higher than for nanostars functionalized with TCO-PEG12 (P < 0.05) or TCO-PEG106 (P < 0.05). Tumor uptake and tumor-to-tissue ratios did not improve upon bioorthogonal masking with Tz-DP or when using a smaller, more lipophilic tetrazine([18F]F-Tz-NODA). 

Conclusions: A pretargeting strategy was developed based on the passive delivery of TCO-functionalized nanostars. Such a strategy would allow for the imaging and treatment of tumors with apparent EPR characteristics, with high radioactive tumor doses and minimal doses to off-target tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalNuclear Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • EPR effect
  • Nanoparticle
  • PET
  • Pretargeting
  • Star polymer

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