Background: Near-infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT) constitutes a new class of molecular-targeted theranostics utilizing monoclonal antibody (mAb)-photosensitizer conjugates and NIR light. In this study, we developed a new type of NIR-PIT targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) expressed on vascular endothelium in an experimental gastric cancer model and evaluated the feasibility by comparing conventional NIR-PIT targeting cancer cell membrane in vitro and in vivo.
Methods: HER2-positive human gastric cancer cells, NCI-N87, were used for the experiments. Anti-HER2 mAb, trastuzumab and anti-VEGFR-2 mAb, DC101 were conjugated to photosensitizer, IR700. Phototoxicity in response to NIR-PIT were investigated in vitro and in vivo. Microvessel densities, as an indicator of angiogenesis, were counted in harvested xenografts after NIR-PIT to elucidate the mechanism.
Results: DC101-IR700 did not induce phototoxic effect in vitro because of the absence of expression of VEGFR-2 in NCI-N87 cancer cells. However, it induced an antitumor effect in NCI-N87 xenograft tumors accompanied with damage in tumor neovasculature as determined by decreasing tumor microvessel density, which represents a different mechanism than that of conventional NIR-PIT targeting antigens expressed on the tumor cell membrane.
Conclusion: We demonstrated a new approach of NIR-PIT utilizing a target on vascular endothelium, such as VEGFR-2, and this treatment might lead to the development of a new therapeutic strategy for human gastric cancer.
Keywords: Cancer neovasculature; Monoclonal antibody; Near-infrared photoimmunotherapy; Photosensitizer; VEGFR-2.