Colon Cancer Cell Imaging

In collaboration with the University of Leeds, we have been demonstrating the potential of CPNs in colon cancer cell imaging. With their powerful signal strength, CPNs can bind to and highlight cancerous cells in a patient’s body, enabling better resection of diseased tissue. CPNs could provide the sensitivity needed to ensure as much healthy tissue as possible is spared. 

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) acts as a biomarker for cancers, including colon cancer. CPNs can be combined with affimers – proteins designed to have a high affinity for specific biomarkers. A combined CPN and anti-CEA affimer nanoparticle can specifically bind to cells expressing CEA, highlighting where cancerous cells are present. Initial experiments show that CPN + anti-CEA affimers can effectively label cells expressing CEA and cell spheroids acting as tumour models.

LoVo cells derived from a colorectal adenocarcinoma express CEA, while HEK293 cells do not. In Figure 1 A, DAPI highlights cell nuclei in both cell types, while CPN 510B combined with the targeting affimer only shows up in the cells expressing CEA. In Figure 1 B, when the CPN 510B is used without the targeting affimer, no green fluorescence is present. This shows that the fluorescent CPN 510B + anti-CEA affimer combination effectively marks the colon tumour cells.

Figure 2 shows that this effect is still present in spheroid models, demonstrating that the CPN 510B anti-CEA affimer combination can penetrate tumour-like spheroids. This could have important implications for studying colon cancer tumour models and enhancing current fluorescence-guided surgery techniques.

Figure 2. LS174T spheroids expressing CEA and HEK293 spheroids with no CEA expression labelled with DAPI (blue) nucleus stain and CPN 510B + anti-CEA affimer (green), as well as CPN 510B alone.