The ability to monitor drug release in vivo provides essential pharmacological information. We developed a new modular approach for the preparation of theranostic prodrugs with a turn-ON near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence mode of action. The prodrugs release their chemotherapeutic cargo and an active cyanine fluorophore upon reaction with a specific analyte. The prodrug platform is based on the fluorogenic dye QCy7; upon removal of a triggering substrate, the dye fluoresces, and the free drug is released. The evaluated camptothecin prodrug was activated by endogenous hydrogen peroxide produced in tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. Drug release and in vitro cytotoxicity were correlated with the emitted fluorescence. The prodrug activation was effectively imaged in real time in mice bearing tumors. The modular design of the QCy7 fluorogenic platform should allow the preparation of numerous other prodrugs with various triggering substrates and chemotherapeutic agents. We anticipate that the development of real-time in vivo monitoring tools such as that described herein will pave the way for personalized therapy.
Keywords: NIR fluorescence; cyanine; drug delivery; molecular probes; prodrugs.
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