Purpose: To assess the capability of the folate receptor (FR)-targeted ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) P1133 to provide FR-specific enhancement of breast cancers on magnetic resonance (MR) images.
Materials and methods: This study was approved by the institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The FR-targeted contrast agent P1133 was incubated with various FR-positive human breast cancer cell lines, with and without free folic acid (FFA) as a competitor. Labeling efficiencies were evaluated with MR imaging and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Subsequently, six athymic rats with implanted FR-positive MDA-MB-231 breast cancers underwent MR imaging at 3 T before and up to 1 hour and 24 hours after injection of P1133. Six athymic rats with implanted FR-positive MDA-MB-231 cancers injected with the non-FR-targeted USPIO P904 and nine athymic rats with implanted FR-negative A549 lung cancers injected with P1133 (n = 6) or P904 (n = 3) served as controls. Data of the in vitro studies were compared for significant differences with the Wilcoxon test for two independent samples. Tumor signal-to-noise-ratios (SNRs) were compared between different experimental groups by using the Kruskal-Wallis test and were correlated with histopathologic findings. Differences with P < .05 were considered significant.
Results: FR-positive breast cancer cells showed a significant P1133 uptake which was inhibited by FFA. MDA-MB-231 cells showed the highest level of P1133 uptake and the strongest T2 effect on MR images. In vivo, all tumors showed an initial perfusion effect. At 24 hours after injection, only MDA-MB-231 tumors injected with P1133 showed significantly decreased SNR data compared with baseline data (P < .05). MR findings were confirmed by using histopathologic findings.
Conclusion: The FR-targeted USPIO P1133 demonstrates a specific retention in FR-positive breast cancers. Because FR expression correlates with tumor aggressiveness and prognosis, persistent P1133 tumor enhancement may be used as a noninvasive indicator for tumors with poor outcome.