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Open Access Research article

Targeting tissue factor on tumour cells and angiogenic vascular endothelial cells by factor VII-targeted verteporfin photodynamic therapy for breast cancer in vitro and in vivo in mice

Zhiwei Hu12*, Benqiang Rao12, Shimin Chen12 and Jinzhong Duanmu2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

2 Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:235  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-235

Published: 26 May 2010

Abstract

Background

The objective of this study was to develop a ligand-targeted photodynamic therapy (tPDT) by conjugating factor VII (fVII) protein with photosensitiser verteporfin in order to overcome the poor selectivity and enhance the effect of non-targeted PDT (ntPDT) for cancer. fVII is a natural ligand for receptor tissue factor (TF) with high affinity and specificity. The reason for targeting receptor TF for the development of tPDT is that TF is a common but specific target on angiogenic tumour vascular endothelial cells (VEC) and many types of tumour cells, including solid tumours and leukaemia.

Methods

Murine factor VII protein (mfVII) containing a mutation (Lys341Ala) was covalently conjugated via a cross linker EDC with Veterporfin (VP) that was extracted from liposomal Visudyne, and then free VP was separated by Sephadex G50 spin columns. fVII-tPDT using mfVII-VP conjugate, compared to ntPDT, was tested in vitro for the killing of breast cancer cells and VEGF-stimulated VEC and in vivo for inhibiting the tumour growth of breast tumours in a mouse xenograft model.

Results

We showed that: (i) fVII protein could be conjugated with VP without affecting its binding activity; (ii) fVII-tPDT could selectively kill TF-expressing breast cancer cells and VEGF-stimulated angiogenic HUVECs but had no side effects on non-TF expressing unstimulated HUVEC, CHO-K1 and 293 cells; (iii) fVII targeting enhanced the effect of VP PDT by three to four fold; (iii) fVII-tPDT induced significantly stronger levels of apoptosis and necrosis than ntPDT; and (iv) fVII-tPDT had a significantly stronger effect on inhibiting breast tumour growth in mice than ntPDT.

Conclusions

We conclude that the fVII-targeted VP PDT that we report here is a novel and effective therapeutic with improved selectivity for the treatment of breast cancer. Since TF is expressed on many types of cancer cells including leukaemic cells and selectively on angiogenic tumour VECs, fVII-tPDT could have broad therapeutic applications for other solid cancers and leukaemia.