Evaluation of a nonpeptidic ligand for imaging of cholecystokinin 2 receptor-expressing cancers

Charity Wayua, Philip S. Low

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Tumor-specific targeting ligands were recently exploited to deliver both imaging and therapeutic agents selectively to cancer tissues in vivo. Because the cholecystokinin 2 receptor (CCK2R) is overexpressed in various human cancers (e.g., lung, medullary thyroid, pancreatic, colon, and gastrointestinal stromal tumors) but displays limited expression in normal tissues, natural ligands of CCK2R were recently explored for use in the imaging of CCK2R-expressing cancers. Unfortunately, the results from these studies revealed not only that the peptidic CCK2R ligands were unstable in vivo but also that the ligands that mediated good uptake by tumor tissues also promoted a high level of retention of the radioimaging agent in the kidneys, probably because of capture of the conjugates by peptidescavenging receptors. In an effort to reduce the normal organ retention of CCK2R-targeted drugs, we synthesized a nonpeptidic ligand of CCK2R and examined its specificity for CCK2R both in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: Nonpeptidic agonists and antagonists of CCK2R described in the literature were evaluated for their affinities and specificities for CCK2R. Z-360, a benzodiazepine-derived CCK2R antagonist with subnanomolar affinity. Was selected for complexation to 99mTc via multiple spacers. After synthesis and purification, 4 complexes with different physicochemical properties were evaluated for binding to CCK2R-transfected HEK 293 cells. The best conjugate, termed CRL-3-99mTc, was injected into mice bearing CCK2R tumor xenografts and examined by γ scintigraphy and SPECT/CT. The uptake of the conjugate in various organs was also quantified by tissue resection and γ counting.

Results: CRL- 3-99mTc was shown to bind with low nanomolar affinity to CCK2R in vitro and was localized to tumor tissues in athymic nu/nu mice implanted with CCK2R-expressing tumors. At 4 h after injection, tumor uptake was measured at 12.0 ± 2.0 percentage injected dose per gram of tissue.

Conclusion: Because the uptake of CRL-3-99mTc by nonmalignant tissues was negligible and retention in the kidneys was only transient, we suggest that CRL-3-99mTc may be a useful radioimaging agent for the detection, sizing, and monitoring of CCK2Rexpressing tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Antagonist
  • Cancer imaging
  • Cholecystokinin 2/gastrin receptor
  • Nonpeptide
  • Radioimaging of tumors
  • Tumor-targeted therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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