Anti-CA19-9 diabody as a PET imaging probe for pancreas cancer

J Surg Res. 2011 Oct;170(2):169-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2011.03.065. Epub 2011 Apr 20.


Background: Intact antibodies are poor imaging agents due to a long serum half-life (10-20 d) preventing adequate contrast between the tumor and surrounding blood. Smaller engineered antibody fragments overcome this problem by exhibiting shorter serum half-lives (4-20 h).The diabody (55 kDa) is the smallest antibody fragment, which retains the bivalency of the intact antibody. Our goal was to develop and characterize the anti-CA19-9 diabody fragment and determine its ability to provide antigen specific imaging of pancreas cancer.

Methods: The diabody DNA construct was created by isolation of the variable region genes of the intact anti-CA19-9 antibody. Diabody expression was carried out in NS0 cells and purified using HPLC from supernatant. Specific antigen binding was confirmed with flow cytometry and immunofluorescence. Radiolabeled diabody was injected into mice harboring an antigen positive xenograft (BxPC3 or Capan-2) and a negative xenograft (MiaPaca-2). MicroCT and MicroPET were performed at successive time intervals after injection. Radioactivity was measured in blood and tumor to provide objective confirmation of the microPET images.

Results: Immunofluorescence and flow cytometry showed specific binding of the anti-CA19-9 diabody. Pancreas xenograft imaging of BxPC3/MiaPaca-2 and Capan-2/MiaPaca-2 models with the anti-CA19-9 diabody demonstrated an average tumor:blood ratio of 5.0 and 2.0, respectively, and an average positive:negative tumor ratio of 11 and 6, respectively. With respect to the tumor:blood ratio, these data indicate five times and two times more radioactivity in the tumor than in the blood yielding adequate contrast between tumor tissue and background (i.e., blood) to create the representative microPET images.

Conclusions: We successfully engineered a functional diabody against CA19-9, a tumor antigen present on the vast majority of pancreas cancers. Additionally, we demonstrate high contrast antigen specific microPET imaging of pancreas cancer in xenograft models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal* / blood
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal* / pharmacokinetics
  • Antibody Specificity
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / immunology*
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Hybridomas
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments* / blood
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments* / pharmacology
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics
  • Mice
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Protein Engineering / methods
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Iodine Radioisotopes