Hum Gene Ther. 2005; 16:1267-1275.

Novel SRESPHP peptide mediates specific binding to primary medullary thyroid carcinoma after systemic injection.

Böckmann M, Hilken G, Schmidt A, Cranston AN, Tannapfel A, Drosten M, Frilling A, Ponder BAJ, Pützer BM.
The efficient and specific introduction of genes into cancer cells in vivo remains a major challenge for current gene therapy modalities. Peptides possess appropriate properties to serve as tumor-targeting agents. Thus, finding new cancer-selective peptides directing gene transfer to neoplastic cells by reducing transduction of normal cells is a central goal for molecular targeting. We have previously reported identification of a peptide (HTFEPGV) that selectively binds to human medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)-derived TT cells in vitro and transplanted tumor xenografts in vivo, using phage display. In the present study, we have performed this approach in primary orthotopically growing murine MTCs of RET-C634R transgenic mice as a clinically relevant model for thyroid cancer by intravenous injection of a complex peptide library. Two rounds of screening on primary tumors yielded multiple copies of a phage that displays a cyclic 7-amino acid peptide, SRESPHP, with a 3000-fold increase in titer between rounds 1 and 2. The selected phage showed highly specific binding to the tumor after systemic administration, whereas binding to other organs such as lung, liver, kidney, and heart was reduced up to 90%. After tail vein injection, homing to the tumor was substantially reduced in the presence of synthetic SRESPHP peptide, indicating that tumor phage interaction strictly depends on the displayed peptide. Immunohistochemical analysis of paraffin sections from mouse tissues revealed direct binding of the SRESPHP peptide to MTC tissue. Moreover, this peptide also mediates binding to human MTC cells in vitro and in vivo, suggesting abundant expression of its cognate receptor in murine and human medullary thyroid carcinoma. Because the SRESPHP peptide is also efficiently internalized into MTC cells, it likely provides the basis for a new selective therapy of medullary thyroid carcinoma.
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