Design of ProCAs (protein-based Gd(3+) MRI contrast agents) with high dose efficiency and capability for molecular imaging of cancer biomarkers

Med Res Rev. 2014 Sep;34(5):1070-99. doi: 10.1002/med.21313. Epub 2014 Mar 11.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the leading imaging technique for disease diagnostics, providing high resolution, three-dimensional images noninvasively. MRI contrast agents are designed to improve the contrast and sensitivity of MRI. However, current clinically used MRI contrast agents have relaxivities far below the theoretical upper limit, which largely prevent advancing molecular imaging of biomarkers with desired sensitivity and specificity. This review describes current progress in the development of a new class of protein-based MRI contrast agents (ProCAs) with high relaxivity using protein design to optimize the parameters that govern relaxivity. Further, engineering with targeting moiety allows these contrast agents to be applicable for molecular imaging of prostate cancer biomarkers by MRI. The developed protein-based contrast agents also exhibit additional in vitro and in vivo advantages for molecular imaging of disease biomarkers, such as high metal-binding stability and selectivity, reduced toxicity, proper blood circulation time, and higher permeability in tumor tissue in addition to improved relaxivities.

Keywords: MRI; molecular imaging; protein-based contrast agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Contrast Media*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gadolinium / administration & dosage*
  • Gadolinium / chemistry
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium