Targeting of primary breast cancers and metastases in a transgenic mouse model using rationally designed multifunctional SPIONs

Forrest M. Kievit, Zachary R. Stephen, Omid Veiseh, Hamed Arami, Tingzhong Wang, Vy P. Lai, James O. Park, Richard G. Ellenbogen, Mary L. Disis, Miqin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Breast cancer remains one of the most prevalent and lethal malignancies in women. The inability to diagnose small volume metastases early has limited effective treatment of stage 4 breast cancer. Here we report the rational development and use of a multifunctional superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle (SPION) for targeting metastatic breast cancer in a transgenic mouse model and imaging with magnetic resonance (MR). SPIONs coated with a copolymer of chitosan and polyethylene glycol (PEG) were labeled with a fluorescent dye for optical detection and conjugated with a monoclonal antibody against the neu receptor (NP-neu). SPIONs labeled with mouse IgG were used as a nontargeting control (NP-IgG). These SPIONs had desirable physiochemical properties for in vivo applications such as near neutral zeta potential and hydrodynamic size around 40 nm and were highly stable in serum containing medium. Only NP-neu showed high uptake in neu expressing mouse mammary carcinoma (MMC) cells which was reversed by competing free neu antibody, indicating their specificity to the neu antigen. In vivo, NP-neu was able to tag primary breast tumors and significantly, only NP-neu bound to spontaneous liver, lung, and bone marrow metastases in a transgenic mouse model of metastatic breast cancer, highlighting the necessity of targeting for delivery to metastatic disease. The SPIONs provided significant contrast enhancement in MR images of primary breast tumors; thus, they have the potential for MRI detection of micrometastases and provide an excellent platform for further development of an efficient metastatic breast cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2591-2601
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • HER2/neu
  • breast cancer
  • genetically engineered mouse model
  • iron oxide
  • metastases
  • nanoparticle
  • theranostics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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