Potent and specific antitumor effect of CEA-targeted photoimmunotherapy

Int J Cancer. 2014 Dec 1;135(11):2697-710. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28907. Epub 2014 Apr 25.


Conventional photodynamic therapy (PDT) for cancer is limited by the insufficient efficacy and specificity of photosensitizers. We herein describe a highly effective and selective tumor-targeted PDT using a near-infrared (NIR) photosensitizer, IRDye700DX, conjugated to a human monoclonal antibody (Ab) specific for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). The antitumor effects of this Ab-assisted PDT, called photoimmunotherapy (PIT), were investigated in vitro and in vivo. The Ab-IRDye conjugate induced potent cytotoxicity against CEA-positive tumor cells after NIR-irradiation, whereas CEA-negative cells were not affected at all, even in the presence of excess photoimmunoconjugate. We found an equivalent phototoxicity and a predominant plasma membrane localization of Ab-IRDye after both one and six hours of incubation. Either no or little caspase activation and membrane peroxidation were observed in PIT-treated cells and a panel of scavengers for reactive oxygen species showed only partial inhibition of the phototoxic effect. Strikingly, Ab-IRDye retained significant phototoxicity even under hypoxia. We established a xenograft model, which allowed us to sensitively investigate the therapeutic efficacy of PIT by non-invasive bioluminescence imaging. Luciferase-expressing MKN-45-luc human gastric carcinoma cells were subcutaneously implanted into both flanks of nude mice. NIR-irradiation was performed for only the tumor on one side. In vivo imaging and measurement of the tumor size revealed that a single PIT treatment, with intraperitoneal administration of Ab-IRDye and subsequent NIR-irradiation, caused rapid cell death and significant inhibition of tumor growth, but only on the irradiated side. Together, these data suggest that Ab-IRDye-mediated PIT has great potential as an anticancer therapeutics targeting CEA-positive tumors.

Keywords: bioluminescence imaging; carcinoembryonic antigen; near-infrared light; photodynamic therapy; photoimmunoconjugate; photoimmunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / immunology*
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunoconjugates / administration & dosage
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Immunoconjugates
  • Photosensitizing Agents