Purpose: The development of new treatments and their deployment in the clinic may be assisted by imaging methods that allow an early assessment of treatment response in individual patients. The C2A domain of Synaptotagmin-I (C2Am), which binds to the phosphatidylserine (PS) exposed by apoptotic and necrotic cells, has been developed as an imaging probe for detecting cell death. Multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) is a real-time and clinically applicable imaging modality that was used here with a near infrared (NIR) fluorophore-labeled C2Am to image tumor cell death in mice treated with a TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor 2 (TRAILR2) agonist and with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU).
Experimental Design: C2Am was labeled with a NIR fluorophore and injected intravenously into mice bearing human colorectal TRAIL-sensitive Colo205 and TRAIL-resistant HT-29 xenografts that had been treated with a potent agonist of TRAILR2 and in Colo205 tumors treated with 5-FU.
Results: Three-dimensional (3D) MSOT images of probe distribution showed development of tumor contrast within 3 hours of probe administration and a signal-to-background ratio in regions containing dead cells of >10 after 24 hours. A site-directed mutant of C2Am that is inactive in PS binding showed negligible binding. Tumor retention of the active probe was strongly correlated (R2 = 0.97, P value < 0.01) with a marker of apoptotic cell death measured in histologic sections obtained post mortem. Conclusions: The rapid development of relatively high levels of contrast suggests that NIR fluorophore-labeled C2Am could be a useful optoacoustic imaging probe for detecting early therapy-induced tumor cell death in the clinic.