MR molecular imaging of the Her-2/neu receptor in breast cancer cells using targeted iron oxide nanoparticles



MR molecular imaging is an exciting new frontier in the biomedical applications of MR. One of the clinically relevant targets is the tyrosine kinase Her-2/neu receptor, which has a significant role in staging and treating breast cancer. In this study Her-2/neu receptors were imaged in a panel of breast cancer cells expressing different numbers of the receptors on the cell membrane. Commercially available streptavidin-conjugated superparamagnetic nanoparticles were used as targeted MR contrast agent. The nanoparticles were directed to receptors prelabeled with a biotinylated monoclonal antibody and generated strong T2 MR contrast in Her-2/neu-expressing cells. The contrast observed in MR images was proportional to the expression level of Her-2/neu receptors determined independently with FACS analysis. In these experiments, iron oxide nanoparticles were attached to the cell surface and were not internalized into the cells, which is a major advantage for in vivo applications of the method. Magn Reson Med 49:403–408, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.