Specific targeting of adriamycin conjugates with monoclonal antibodies to hepatoma associated antigens to intrahepatic tumors in athymic mice



Doxorubicin (adriamycin), once considered the treatment of choice for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is known to cause cardiotoxicity and myelotoxicity. To reduce the systemic toxicity of adriamycin by direct delivery of the drug to the tumor site, we established a panel of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to hepatoma associated antigens that were conjugated to adriamycin by a dextran bridge. Initially, the efficacy of these conjugates in suppressing tumor growth was assessed using a model of subcutaneous HCC tumors injected in athymic mice. In the second stage of the study, we tested these conjugates in an experimental model in which human HCC was transplanted intrahepatically by intrasplenic injection, thus providing the tumor cells with growth factors and an adequate cellular matrix, similar to the natural microenvironment of HCC. Anti-tumoral therapy resulted in lower serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels in two of three experimental groups treated with different specific conjugates as compared with control mice treated with the individual components. Efficacy of targeting was enhanced using the intrahepatic model system for propagation of HCC and was demonstrated by fluorescence of adriamycin and MAb in tumor tissue and absence of this fluorescence in healthy liver tissue surrounding the tumor. Reduction of systemic toxicity was shown by the absence of adriamycin fluorescence in myocardial tissue in conjugate-treated mice, whereas in all other treatment groups, including mice treated with a mixture of adriamycin and specific MAb, there was strong myocardial fluorescence of adriamycin. (Hepatology 1995; 22:1482–1487).