Fluorescence-guided tumor detection with a novel anti-EpCAM targeted antibody fragment: Preclinical validation.

Boogerd LSF, Boonstra MC, Prevoo HAJM, Handgraaf HJM, Kuppen PJK, van de Velde CJH, Fish A, Cordfunke RA, Valentijn ARPM, Terwisscha van Scheltinga AG, MacDonald GC, Cizeau J, Premsukh A, Vinkenburg van Slooten ML, Burggraaf J, Sier CFM, Vahrmeijer AL

Tumor-specific fluorescent imaging agents are moving towards the clinic, supporting surgeons with real-time intraoperative feedback about tumor locations. The epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is considered as one of the most promising tumor-specific proteins due its high overexpression on epithelial-derived cancers. This study describes the development and evaluation of EpCAM-F800, a novel fluorescent anti-EpCAM antibody fragment, for intraoperative tumor imaging. Fab production, conjugation to the fluorophore IRDye 800CW, and binding capacities were determined and validated using HPLC, spectrophotometry and cell-based assays. In vivo, dose escalation-, blocking-, pharmacokinetic- and biodistribution studies (using both fluorescence and radioactivity) were performed, next to imaging of clinically relevant orthotopic xenografts for breast and colorectal cancer. EpCAM-F800 targets EpCAM with high specificity in vitro, which was validated using in vivo blocking experiments with a 10x higher dose of unlabeled Fab. The optimal dose range for fluorescence tumor detection in mice was 1-5 nmol (52-260 μg), which corresponds to a human equivalent dose of 0.2-0.8 mg/kg. Biodistribution showed high accumulation of EpCAM-F800 in tumors and metabolizing organs. Breast and colorectal tumors could clearly be visualized within 8 h post-injection and up to 96 h, while the agent already showed homogenous tumor distribution within 4 h. The blood half-life was 4.5 h. This study describes the development and evaluation of a novel EpCAM-targeting agent and the feasibility to visualize breast and colorectal tumors by fluorescence imaging during resections. EpCAM-F800 will be translated for clinical use, considering its abundance in a broad range of tumor types.