'Sugar-bait' gold nanoparticles for metabolic-based imaging
Our research focuses on nanoparticle-based solutions for improvement of cancer diagnostics. One of the main limitations of positron-emission tomography (PET), a prominent cancer imaging technique, is its inability to distinguish between tumors and inflammatory conditions. The main contrast agent used with PET, [18F]FDG, is based on increased glucose metabolic activity, which characterizes both cancerous tissues and inflammatory cells. In addition, PET lacks anatomical information and thus necessitates incorporation of a structural imaging modality to obtain accurate anatomic information. The combination of PET with computed tomography (CT) (PET/CT) enables both functional and anatomical information in a single setting; however, in view of the relatively high cost of PET scans and the dependence on short-lived, non-specific FDG, development of a single modality that will overcome these drawbacks is highly desirable. To answer this need, we developed a nanoparticle-based approach, utilizing 'sugar-bait' gold nanoparticles with unique glucose-based functionalization, to be used as a metabolically targeted contrast agent for CT imaging. This novel approach, exploiting the dissimilarities in angiogenesis in different pathologies, demonstrates specific tumor targeting and high tumor cell uptake of the 'sugar-bait' nanoparticles, which successfully distinguish between cancer and inflammatory processes using CT imaging. Our approach provides simultaneous functional (metabolic) and structural imaging capabilities, using CT – the most widely available imaging modality. Our research can provide a set of capabilities in cancer detection, staging and follow-up, and is applicable to a wide range of cancers that exhibit high metabolic activity.