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Nat Biotechnol. 2004 Aug;22(8):969-76. Epub 2004 Jul 18.

In vivo cancer targeting and imaging with semiconductor quantum dots.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, 1639 Pierce Drive, Suite 2001, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


We describe the development of multifunctional nanoparticle probes based on semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) for cancer targeting and imaging in living animals. The structural design involves encapsulating luminescent QDs with an ABC triblock copolymer and linking this amphiphilic polymer to tumor-targeting ligands and drug-delivery functionalities. In vivo targeting studies of human prostate cancer growing in nude mice indicate that the QD probes accumulate at tumors both by the enhanced permeability and retention of tumor sites and by antibody binding to cancer-specific cell surface biomarkers. Using both subcutaneous injection of QD-tagged cancer cells and systemic injection of multifunctional QD probes, we have achieved sensitive and multicolor fluorescence imaging of cancer cells under in vivo conditions. We have also integrated a whole-body macro-illumination system with wavelength-resolved spectral imaging for efficient background removal and precise delineation of weak spectral signatures. These results raise new possibilities for ultrasensitive and multiplexed imaging of molecular targets in vivo.

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