Background: Cancer stem cells are thought to play a pivotal role in tumor maintenance, metastasis, tumor therapy resistance and relapse. Hence, the development of methods for non-invasive in vivo detection of cancer stem cells is of great importance.
Methodology/principal findings: Here, we describe successful in vivo detection of CD133/prominin, a cancer stem cell surface marker for a variety of tumor entities. The CD133-specific monoclonal antibody AC133.1 was used for quantitative fluorescence-based optical imaging of mouse xenograft models based on isogenic pairs of CD133 positive and negative cell lines. A first set consisted of wild-type U251 glioblastoma cells, which do not express CD133, and lentivirally transduced CD133-overexpressing U251 cells. A second set made use of HCT116 colon carcinoma cells, which uniformly express CD133 at levels comparable to primary glioblastoma stem cells, and a CD133-negative HCT116 derivative. Not surprisingly, visualization and quantification of CD133 in overexpressing U251 xenografts was successful; more importantly, however, significant differences were also found in matched HCT116 xenograft pairs, despite the lower CD133 expression levels. The binding of i.v.-injected AC133.1 antibodies to CD133 positive, but not negative, tumor cells isolated from xenografts was confirmed by flow cytometry.
Conclusions/significance: Taken together, our results show that non-invasive antibody-based in vivo imaging of tumor-associated CD133 is feasible and that CD133 antibody-based tumor targeting is efficient. This should facilitate developing clinically applicable cancer stem cell imaging methods and CD133 antibody-based therapeutics.