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Abstract

The monoclonal antibody AF-20 was raised against the human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell line FOCUS and binds with high affinity to a rapidly internalized 180-kd homodimeric glycoprotein that is abundantly expressed on the surface of human HCC and other human cancer cell lines. Immunoliposomes were produced by covalently coupling AF-20 to liposomes containing carboxyfluorescein. Interaction of immunoliposomes with various HCC cell lines in uitro was quantitatively assessed by flow cytometry and qualitatively analyzed by fluorescence microscopy. Liposomes bearing an isotypematched nonrelevant monoclonal antibody (MAb) and cell lines not expressing AF-20 antigen served as controls. AF-20-immunoliposomes specifically bound to HCC and other human cancer cell lines expressing the AF-20 antigen and were rapidly internalized at 37°C. Interaction of AF-20-conjugated liposomes with these cell lines was between 5 and 200 times greater than that of unconjugated liposomes, whereas no difference was observed between control liposomes bearing a nonrelevant antibody and unconjugated liposomes. Specificity of liposome-target cell interaction was confirmed by competitive inhibition assays. Kinetic analysis showed rapid association of AF-20 immunoliposomes with target cells, with saturation conditions being reached after 60 minutes. We conclude that the MAb AF-20 directs highly efficient, specific, and rapid targeting of immunoliposomes to human HCC and other human cancer cell lines in vitro. This targeted liposomal delivery system represents a promising approach for the development of immunotargeted diagnosis and therapy strategies against HCC. (HEPATOLOGY 1995;22:1527-1537).