Theranostics 2014; 4(9):945-952. doi:10.7150/thno.9246

Research Paper

Specific and Sensitive Tumor Imaging Using Biostable Oligonucleotide Aptamer Probes

Zihua Zeng1,2, Parag Parekh1,2, Zheng Li3, Zheng-Zheng Shi3, Ching-Hsuan Tung3, Youli Zu1,2✉

1. Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital;
2. Cancer Pathology Laboratory, Houston Methodist Research Institute;
3. Department of Translational Imaging, Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Although several imaging modalities are widely used for tumor imaging, none are tumor type-specific. Different types of cancer exhibit differential therapeutic responses, thus necessitating development of an imaging modality able to detect various tumor types with high specificity. To illustrate this point, CD30-specific oligonucleotide aptamer in vivo imaging probes were conjugated to the near-infrared IRD800CW reporter. Mice bearing xenografted CD30-positive or control CD30-negative lymphoma tumors on contralateral sides of the same mouse were developed. Following a systemic administration of aptamer probes, whole body imaging of tumor-bearing mice was performed. Imaging signal from tumor sites was analyzed and imaging specificity confirmed by tissue immunostaining. The in vivo biodistribution of aptamer probes was also evaluated. Whole body scans revealed that the RNA-based aptamer probes selectively highlighted CD30-expressing lymphoma tumors immediately after systemic administration, but did not react with control tumors in the same mouse. The resultant imaging signal lasted up to 1 hr and the aptamer probes were rapidly eliminated from the body through urinary and lower intestinal tracts. For more sensitive imaging, biostable CD30-specific ssDNA-based aptamer probes were also generated. Systemic administration of these probes also selectively highlighted the CD30-positive lymphoma tumors, with imaging signal detected 4-5 folds higher than that derived from control tumors in the same animal, and lasted for up to 24hr. This study demonstrates that oligonucleotide aptamer probes can provide tumor type-specific imaging with high sensitivity and a long-lasting signal, indicating their potential for clinical applications.

Keywords: biostable oligonucleotide aptamer, sensitive imaging, tumor-specific

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Zeng Z, Parekh P, Li Z, Shi ZZ, Tung CH, Zu Y. Specific and Sensitive Tumor Imaging Using Biostable Oligonucleotide Aptamer Probes. Theranostics 2014; 4(9):945-952. doi:10.7150/thno.9246. Available from