EpCAM-Targeting Aptamer Radiotracer for Tumor-Specific PET Imaging

Feng Li, Zihua Zeng, Dale Hamilton, Youli Zu, Zheng Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Noninvasive in vivo imaging to measure the expression of EpCAM, a biomarker overexpressed in the majority of carcinoma tumors and metastatic lesions, is highly desirable for accurate tumor staging and therapy evaluation. Here, we report the use of an aptamer radiotracer to enable tumor-specific EpCAM-targeting PET imaging. Oligonucleotide aptamers are small molecular ligands that specifically bind with high affinity to their target molecules. For specific tumor imaging, an aptamer radiotracer was formulated by chelating a 64Cu isotope and DOTA-PEGylated aptamer sequence to target EpCAM. In vitro cell uptake assays demonstrated that the aptamer radiotracer specifically bound EpCAM-expressing breast cancer cells but did not react with off-target tumor cells. For in vivo tumor imaging, aptamer radiotracer was systemically administered into xenograft mice. MicroPET/CT scans revealed that the aptamer radiotracer rapidly highlighted xenograft tumors derived from MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells (EpCAM positive) as early as 2 h postadministration with a gradually increasing tumor uptake signal that peaked at 24 h but not in lymphoma 937 tumors (EpCAM negative). In contrast, nonspecific background signals in the liver and kidneys were rapidly decreased postadministration. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the utility of aptamer radiotracers for tumor-specific PET imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1145
Number of pages7
JournalBioconjugate chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 16 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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