Noninvasive imaging reveals inhibition of ovarian cancer by targeting CXCL12-CXCR4

Neoplasia. 2011 Dec;13(12):1152-61. doi: 10.1593/neo.111076.


Patients with metastatic ovarian cancer continue to have a dismal prognosis, emphasizing the need for new strategies to identify and develop new molecular targets for therapy. Chemokine CXCL12 and its receptor CXCR4 are upregulated in metastatic ovarian cancer cells and the intraperitoneal tumor microenvironment. CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling promotes multiple steps in proliferation and dissemination of ovarian cancer cells, suggesting that targeted inhibition of this pathway will limit tumor progression. To investigate CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling in ovarian cancer and establish effects of inhibiting this pathway on tumor progression and survival, we designed a Gaussia luciferase complementation imaging reporter system to detect CXCL12 binding to CXCR4 in ovarian cancer cells. In cell-based assays, we established that the complementation imaging reporter could detect CXCL12 binding to CXCR4 and quantify specific inhibition of ligand-receptor interaction. We monitored CXCL12-CXCR4 binding and inhibition in a mouse xenograft model of metastatic human ovarian cancer by imaging Gaussia luciferase complementation and assessed tumor progression with firefly luciferase. Bioluminescence imaging studies in living mice showed that treatment with AMD3100, a clinically approved inhibitor of CXCL12-CXCR4, blocked ligand-receptor binding and reduced growth of ovarian cancer cells. Treatment with AMD3100 also modestly improved overall survival of mice with metastatic ovarian cancer. The Gaussia luciferase complementation imaging reporter system will facilitate further preclinical development and optimization of CXCL12-CXCR4 targeted compounds for treatment of ovarian cancer. Our research supports clinical translation of existing CXCR4 inhibitors for molecular therapy for ovarian cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / genetics
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, SCID
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / genetics
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Heterocyclic Compounds
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • plerixafor