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Imaging and Theranostic Nanobeacons

Research Professor Oliver McIntyre (Cancer Biology) is developing novel imaging and theranostic nanoreagents designed to detect cancer, deliver targeted therapy and monitor anti-tumor drug efficacy.  In his work, a variety of customized activatable imaging and therapeutic agents, including compounds delivered using dendrimeric scaffold nanomaterials (NDs), are being validated using a variety of established mouse models of cancer.  The McIntyre group has developed 'proteolytic beacons' (PBs) to image, with either optical (fluorescent) or MRI contrast, the elevated activity of specific proteinases, such as the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), within the tumor microenvironment in various mouse models of colon, breast and lung cancers.  New types of PBs are being formulated for cancer and other diseases, e.g., to measure proteinase activation associated with tumor growth and metastasis, to assess early response of tumors to therapy and to image MMP activities in non-tumor pathologies such as inflammation and wound healing.

McIntyre is also adapting the beacon platform to generate theranostic dendrimeric nanomaterials (NDs) that not only interrogate tumors but also simultaneously target delivery of pro-drugs.  These kinds of pro-drugs are designed to become active after proteolytic cleavage, thereby exploiting the elevated proteinase microenvironment of tumors for precision targeting therapeutic agents.  As one aspect of this work, novel bifunctional pro-drug ND-PB theranostic agents are being optimized to enhance targeted delivery of cytotoxic drugs to tumors so as to improve therapeutic efficacy while reducing systemic toxicity.

Vanderbilt University