Bifunctional Tumor-Targeted Bioprobe for Phothotheranosis

Biomater Res. 2024 Jan 25:28:0002. doi: 10.34133/bmr.0002. eCollection 2024.


Background: Near-infrared (NIR) phototheranostics provide promising noninvasive imaging and treatment for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), capitalizing on its adjacency to skin or mucosal surfaces. Activated by laser irradiation, targeted NIR fluorophores can selectively eradicate cancer cells, harnessing the power of synergistic photodynamic therapy and photothermal therapy. However, there is a paucity of NIR bioprobes showing tumor-specific targeting and effective phototheranosis without hurting surrounding healthy tissues. Methods: We engineered a tumor-specific bifunctional NIR bioprobe designed to precisely target HNSCC and induce phototheranosis using bioconjugation of a cyclic arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (cRGD) motif and zwitterionic polymethine NIR fluorophore. The cytotoxic effects of cRGD-ZW800-PEG were measured by assessing heat and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation upon an 808-nm laser irradiation. We then determined the in vivo efficacy of cRGD-ZW800-PEG in the FaDu xenograft mouse model of HNSCC, as well as its biodistribution and clearance, using a customized portable NIR imaging system. Results: Real-time NIR imaging revealed that intravenously administered cRGD-ZW800-PEG targeted tumors rapidly within 4 h postintravenous injection in tumor-bearing mice. Upon laser irradiation, cRGD-ZW800-PEG produced ROS and heat simultaneously and exhibited synergistic photothermal and photodynamic effects on the tumoral tissue without affecting the neighboring healthy tissues. Importantly, all unbound bioprobes were cleared through renal excretion. Conclusions: By harnessing phototheranosis in combination with tailored tumor selectivity, our targeted bioprobe ushers in a promising paradigm in cancer treatment. It promises safer and more efficacious therapeutic avenues against cancer, marking a substantial advancement in the field.