Feasibility of Imaging EpCAM Expression in Ovarian Cancer Using Radiolabeled DARPin Ec1.

Epithelial cell adhesionmolecule (EpCAM) is overexpressed in 55%-75% of ovarian carcinomas (OC). EpCAM might be used as a target for a treatment of disseminated OC. Designed ankyrin repeats protein (DARPin) Ec1 is a small (18 kDa) protein, which binds to EpCAM with subnanomolar affinity. We tested a hypothesis that Ec1 labeled with a non-residualizing label might serve as a companion imaging diagnostic for stratification of patients for EpCAM-targeting therapy.

Ec1 was labeled with 125I using N-succinimidyl-para-iodobenzoate. Binding affinity, specificity, and cellular processing of [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 were evaluated using SKOV-3 and OVCAR-3 ovarian carcinoma cell lines. Biodistribution and tumor-targeting properties of [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 were studied in Balb/c nu/nu mice bearing SKOV-3 and OVCAR-3 xenografts. EpCAM-negative Ramos lymphoma xenografts served as specificity control. Binding of [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 to ovarian carcinoma cell lines was highly specific and had affinity in picomolar range.

Slow internalization of [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 by OC cells confirmed utility of non-residualizing label for in vivo imaging. [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 provided 6 h after injection tumor-to-blood ratios of 30 ± 11 and 48 ± 12 for OVCAR-3 and SKOV-3 xenografts, respectively, and high contrast to other organs. Tumor targeting was highly specific.

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Saturation of tumor uptake at a high dose of Ec1 in SKOV-3 model provided a rationale for dose selection in further studies using therapeutic conjugates of Ec1 for targeted therapy. In conclusion, [125I]I-PIB-Ec1 is a promising agent for visualizing EpCAM expression in OC.

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