Multifunctional and water-soluble superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanocarriers were developed for targeted drug delivery and positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI) dual-modality imaging of tumors with integrin α(v)β₃ expression. An anticancer drug was conjugated onto the PEGylated SPIO nanocarriers via pH-sensitive bonds. Tumor-targeting ligands, cyclo(Arg-Gly-Asp-d-Phe-Cys) (c(RGDfC)) peptides, and PET ⁶⁴Cu chelators, macrocyclic 1,4,7-triazacyclononane-N, N', N″-triacetic acid (NOTA), were conjugated onto the distal ends of the PEG arms. The effectiveness of the SPIO nanocarriers as an MRI contrast agent was evaluated via an in vitro r₂ MRI relaxivity measurement. cRGD-conjugated SPIO nanocarriers exhibited a higher level of cellular uptake than cRGD-free ones in vitro. Moreover, cRGD-conjugated SPIO nanocarriers showed a much higher level of tumor accumulation than cRGD-free ones according to non-invasive and quantitative PET imaging, and ex vivo biodistribution studies. Thus, these SPIO nanocarriers demonstrated promising properties for combined targeted anticancer drug delivery and PET/MRI dual-modality imaging of tumors.
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