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Intentionally Designed. Rigorously Studied.

Our differentiated approach to tumor visualization is documented in leading scientific journals.

VGT-309 Publications

A Cathepsin-Targeted Quenched Activity-Based Probe Facilitates Enhanced Detection of Human Tumors during Resection.

ABSTRACT

Purpose:  Fluorescence-guided surgery using tumor-targeted contrast agents has been developed to improve the completeness of oncologic resections. Quenched activity–based probes that fluoresce after covalently binding to tumor-specific enzymes have been proposed to improve specificity, but none have been tested in humans. Here, we report the successful clinical translation of a cathepsin activity–based probe (VGT-309) for fluorescence-guided surgery.

Experimental Design:  We optimized the specificity, dosing, and timing of VGT-309 in preclinical models of lung cancer. To evaluate clinical feasibility, we conducted a canine study of VGT-309 during pulmonary tumor resection. We then conducted a randomized, double-blind, dose-escalation study in healthy human volunteers receiving VGT-309 to evaluate safety. Finally, we tested VGT-309 in humans undergoing lung cancer surgery.

Results:  In preclinical models, we found highly specific tumor cell labeling that was blocked by a broad spectrum cathepsin inhibitor. When evaluating VGT-309 for guidance during resection of canine tumors, we found that the probe selectively labeled tumors and demonstrated high tumor-to-background ratio (TBR; range: 2.15–3.71). In the Phase I human study, we found that VGT-309 was safe at all doses studied. In the ongoing Phase II trial, we report two cases in which VGT-309 localized visually occult, non-palpable tumors (TBRs = 2.83 and 7.18) in real time to illustrate its successful clinical translation and potential to improve surgical management.

Conclusions:  This first-in-human study demonstrates the safety and feasibility of VGT-309 to label human pulmonary tumors during resection. These results may be generalizable to other cancers due to cathepsin overexpression in many solid tumors.

Complete citation:

Kennedy GT, Holt DE, Azari FS, Bernstein E, Nadeem B, Chang A, Sullivan NT, Segil A, Desphande C, Bensen E, Santini JT, Kucharczuk JC, Delikatny EJ, Bogyo M, Egan AJM, Bradley CW, Eruslanov E, Lickliter JD, Wright G, Singhal S. A Cathepsin-Targeted Quenched Activity-Based Probe Facilitates Enhanced Detection of Human Tumors during Resection. Clin Cancer Res. 2022 Sep 1;28(17):3729-3741.

Preclinical Evaluation of an Activity-Based Probe for Intraoperative Imaging of Esophageal Cancer.

ABSTRACT

Purpose:  Early detection and complete resection are important prognostic factors for esophageal cancer (EC). Intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) using tumor-targeted tracers is effective in many cancer types. However, there are no EC-specific IMI tracers. We sought to test a cathepsin activity-based tracer (VGT-309) for EC resection.

Methods:  Murine (AKR, HNM007) and human (OE19) EC cell lines were screened for cathepsin expression by western blotting. In vitro binding affinity of VGT-309 was evaluated by fluorescence microscopy. Flank tumor models were developed by injecting EC cells into the flanks of BALB/c or athymic nude mice. Mice pretreated with a cathepsin inhibitor (JPM-OEt) were used to confirm on target binding. Animals were injected with 2 mg/kg VGT-309, underwent IMI, and were sacrificed 24 hours after injection.

Results:  Cathepsins B, L, S, and X were expressed by EC cell lines, and all cell lines were labeled in vitro with VGT-309. Fluorescent signal was eliminated when cells were pretreated with JPM-OEt. On biodistribution analysis, VGT-309 accumulated in the liver, kidneys, and spleen without other organ involvement. VGT-309 selectively accumulated in flank allografts and xenografts, with mean signal-to-background ratio of 5.21 (IQR: 4.18-6.73) for flank allografts and 4.34 (IQR: 3.75-5.02) for flank xenografts. Fluorescence microscopy and histopathological analysis confirmed the selective accumulation of the tracer in tumors compared to background normal tissues.

Conclusions:  VGT-309 is an effective tracer for IMI of esophageal cancer. There is potential for clinical translation both as an adjunct to endoscopic detection and for complete removal of disease during esophagectomy.

Complete citation:

Kennedy GT, Azari FS, Nadeem B, Chang A, Segil A, Bernstein E, Desphande C, Kucharczuk JC, Delikatny EJ, Singhal S. Preclinical Evaluation of an Activity-Based Probe for Intraoperative Imaging of Esophageal Cancer. Mol Imaging. 2022 Jul 14;2022:5447290.

Fluorescent image-guided surgery in breast cancer by intravenous application of a quenched fluorescence activity-based probe for cysteine cathepsins in a syngeneic mouse model.

ABSTRACT

Purpose:  The reoperation rate for breast-conserving surgery is as high as 15–30% due to residual tumor in the surgical cavity after surgery. In vivo tumor-targeted optical molecular imaging may serve as a red-flag technique to improve intraoperative surgical margin assessment and to reduce reoperation rates. Cysteine cathepsins are overexpressed in most solid tumor types, including breast cancer. We developed a cathepsin-targeted, quenched fluorescent activity-based probe, VGT-309, and evaluated whether it could be used for tumor detection and image-guided surgery in syngeneic tumor-bearing mice.

Methods:  Binding specificity of the developed probe was evaluated in vitro. Next, fluorescent imaging in BALB/c mice bearing a murine breast tumor was performed at different time points after VGT-309 administration. Biodistribution of VGT-309 after 24 h in tumor-bearing mice was compared to control mice. Image-guided surgery was performed at multiple time points tumors with different clinical fluorescent camera systems and followed by ex vivo analysis.

Results: The probe was specifically activated by cathepsins X, B/L, and S. Fluorescent imaging revealed an increased tumor-to-background contrast over time up to 15.1 24 h post probe injection. In addition, VGT-309 delineated tumor tissue during image-guided surgery with different optical fluorescent imaging camera systems.

Conclusions:  These results indicate that optical fluorescent molecular imaging using the cathepsin-targeted probe, VGT-309, may improve intraoperative tumor detection, which could translate to more complete tumor resection when coupled with commercially available surgical tools and techniques.

Complete citation:

Suurs FV, Qiu SQ, Yim JJ, Schröder CP, Timmer-Bosscha H, Bensen ES, Santini JT Jr, de Vries EGE, Bogyo M, van Dam GM. Fluorescent image-guided surgery in breast cancer by intravenous application of a quenched fluorescence activity-based probe for cysteine cathepsins in a syngeneic mouse model. EJNMMI Res. 2020 Sep 29;10(1):111.