Ultrasonic imaging of tumor angiogenesis using contrast microbubbles targeted via the tumor-binding peptide arginine-arginine-leucine

Gregory E.R. Weller, Michael K.K. Wong, Ruth A. Modzelewski, Erxiong Lu, Alexander L. Klibanov, William R. Wagner, Flordeliza S. Villanueva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Endothelial cells (EC) of angiogenic tumor vasculature are characterized by altered expression of molecular markers on their surface. Numerous peptides have been identified that specifically bind tumor angiogenic endothelium, including the tripeptide arginine-arginine-leucine (RRL). We hypothesized that ultrasound contrast microbubbles (MB) targeted via linkage with RRL would specifically adhere to tumor angiogenic endothelium versus normal myocardium, and that this selective adhesion could be detected ultrasonically. Microbubbles were conjugated to cyclic peptides containing either RRL (RRL-MB) or a glycine control sequence (control-MB). As measured in a parallel plate flow chamber, in vitro adhesion of RRL-MBs was three times greater to cultured tumor-derived ECs than to normal ECs (P < 0.01), demonstrating selective binding of RRL-MBs to tumor endothelium. Mice bearing s.c. Clone C or PC3 tumors were given i.v. injections of fluorescent RRL to show in vivo localization to tumor vasculature or were ultrasonically imaged following i.v. injections of targeted contrast MBs. Ultrasound images showed strong RRL-MB contrast enhancement within the tumors but not the control tissue myocardium. Control-MBs caused minimal enhancement in either tissue. Quantitative acoustic videointensity was significantly greater for the tumors than the hearts (5 ± 1 versus 0.5 ± 1 intensity units; P = 0.001). These data show that ultrasound contrast MBs targeted to tumor vasculature via RRL preferentially adhere to tumor versus normal vasculature and that this selective adherence can be detected with ultrasound. Targeted microbubbles may thus offer a noninvasive contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging technique for the functional imaging of tumor neovascularization, and may have further implications for therapeutic tumor targeting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-539
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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