Tumor-Targeted ZW800-1 Analog for Enhanced Tumor Imaging and Photothermal Therapy

Pharmaceutics. 2021 Oct 9;13(10):1648. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics13101648.


ZW800-1, a representative zwitterionic near-infrared (NIR) fluorophore, can minimize background tissue uptake owing to its balanced surface charges, and therefore, is widely used for improved NIR fluorescence imaging. As ZW800-1 has no tumor targetability, tumor imaging is highly dependent on the ability of the molecules conjugated to the ZW800-1. To enable tumor targeting using ZW800-1 without additional conjugation, we developed a tumor-targetable and renal-clearable ZW800-1 analog (ZW800-AM) based on the structural modification of ZW800-1. Specifically, an amine group on the center linker of the ZW800-1 indocyanine backbone was modified by replacing phenoxypropionic acid with tyramine linkage on the meso-chlorine atom. This modification improved the tumor targeting ability, which is known as the structure-inherent targeting strategy. More importantly, ZW800-AM not only showed sufficient tumor accumulation without nonspecific uptake but also produced a photothermal effect, killing tumor cells under 808 nm NIR laser irradiation. In addition, ZW800-AM exhibited rapid renal elimination from the body within 4 h of injection, similar to ZW800-1. Overall, the discovery of ZW800-AM as a bifunctional phototherapeutic agent may provide an ideal alternative for tumor-targeted imaging and phototherapy.

Keywords: ZW800-1; near-infrared fluorescence imaging; photothermal therapy; tumor targeting; zwitterionic fluorophores.