Nanobody-targeted photodynamic therapy for the treatment of feline oral carcinoma: A step towards translation to the veterinary clinic

Irati Beltrán Hernández, Guillaume C.M. Grinwis, Alessia Di Maggio, Paul M.P. van Bergen en Henegouwen, Wim E. Hennink, Erik Teske, Jan W. Hesselink, Sebastiaan A. van Nimwegen, Jan A. Mol and Sabrina Oliveira

Published: 2021


Nanobody-targeted photodynamic therapy (NB-PDT) has been developed as a potent and tumor-selective treatment, using nanobodies (NBs) to deliver a photosensitizer (PS) specifically to cancer cells. Upon local light application, reactive oxygen species are formed and consequent cell death occurs. NB-PDT has preclinically shown evident success and we next aim to treat cats with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), which has very limited therapeutic options and is regarded as a natural model of human head and neck SCC. Immunohistochemistry of feline OSCC tissue confirmed that the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a relevant target with expression in cancer cells and not in the surrounding stroma. Three feline OSCC cell lines were employed together with a well-characterized human cancer cell line (HeLa), all with similar EGFR expression, and a low EGFR-expressing human cell line (MCF7), mirroring the EGFR expression level in the surrounding mucosal stroma. NBA was identified as a NB binding human and feline EGFR with comparable high affinity. This NB was developed into NiBh, a NB-PS conjugate with high PS payload able to effectively kill feline OSCC and HeLa cell lines, after illumination. Importantly, the specificity of NB-PDT was confirmed in co-cultures where only the feline OSCC cells were killed while surrounding MCF7 cells were unaffected. Altogether, NiBh can be used for NB-PDT to treat feline OSCC and further advance NB-PDT towards the human clinic.

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