Non-invasive detection and complementary diagnosis of liver metastases via chemokine receptor 4 imaging

Cancer Gene Ther. 2022 Dec;29(12):1827-1839. doi: 10.1038/s41417-022-00433-w. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Noninvasive detection of early-stage liver metastases from different primary cancers is a pressing unmet medical need. The lack of both molecular biomarkers and the sensitive imaging methodology makes the detection challenging. In this study, we observed the elevated expression of chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) in uveal melanoma (UM) patient liver tissues, and high CXCR4 expression in liver metastases of UM murine models, regardless of the expression levels in the primary tumors. Based on these findings, we identified CXCR4 as an imaging biomarker and exploited a CXCR4-targeted MRI contrast agent ProCA32.CXCR4 for molecular MRI imaging. ProCA32.CXCR4 has strong CXCR4 binding affinity, high metal selectivity, and r1 and r2 relaxivities, which enables the sensitive detection of liver micrometastases. The MRI imaging capacity for detecting liver metastases was demonstrated in three UM models and one ovarian cancer model. The imaging results were validated by histological and immunohistochemical analysis. ProCA32.CXCR4 has strong potential clinical application for non-invasive diagnosis of liver metastases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / secondary
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / genetics
  • Uveal Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, CXCR4

Supplementary concepts

  • Uveal melanoma