Bombesin Antagonists for Targeting Gastrin-Releasing Peptide Receptor-Positive Tumors : Design, Synthesis, Preclinical Evaluation and Optimization of Imaging Agents

Abstract: This thesis is focused on the development, preclinical evaluation, and optimization of radiotracers for the detection of gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR)-expressing tumors. The work is divided into three distinct parts: (1) the development of bombesin (BN) antagonist (RM26)-based imaging radiotracers for the detection of GRPR-expressing tumors using different positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) radionuclides (68Ga, 18F and 111In), (2) the establishment of a method to monitor the ligand-G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) interaction in real time without requiring purification and stabilization of the receptors, and (3) the evaluation of radiopeptide structure-related factors (length of mini-PEG linker and composition of chelator for metal labeling) affecting the in vitro and in vivo characteristics of RM26-based tracers.We demonstrated the possibility of high-contrast in vivo imaging of GRPR-expressing xenografts despite the physiological expression of GRPR in abdominal organs. Fast radioactivity clearance from the blood and healthy organs, including receptor-positive organs, and long retention in the tumors resulted in high tumor-to-background ratios. A novel real-time assay for measuring the kinetics of the radiotracers targeting GPCR was evaluated. Living cells were used instead of purified receptors in this technology, bringing the developmental work one step closer to the true target environment (imaging in living systems). The comparative study of 68Ga-labeled NOTA-PEGn-RM26 with di-, tri-, tetra- and hexaethylene glycol chains demonstrated that the addition of only a few units of ethylene glycol to the spacer is insufficient to appreciably affect the biodistribution of the radiopeptide. Finally, a comparative study of 68Ga-labeled PEG2-RM26 analogs N-terminally conjugated to NOTA, NODAGA, DOTA or DOTAGA highlighted the influence of the chelator on the targeting properties of the radiopeptide.The main conclusion that can be drawn from this thesis is that 68Ga-NOTA-PEG2-RM26 has favorable biodistribution properties, such as rapid clearance from blood and tissues with physiological GRPR expression levels and long retention in GRPR-expressing tumors, and that this radiopeptide is potentially suitable for initial clinical investigation.