In Vivo Recognition of Human Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor by Molecularly Imprinted Polymers

One of the mechanisms responsible for cancer-induced increased blood supply in malignant neoplasms is the overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Several antibodies for VEGF targeting have been produced for both imaging and therapy. Molecularly imprinted polymer nanoparticles, nanoMIPs, however, offer significant advantages over antibodies, in particular in relation to improved stability, speed of design, cost and control over functionalization. In the present study, the successful production of nanoMIPs against human VEGF is reported for the first time. NanoMIPs were coupled with quantum dots (QDs) for cancer imaging. The composite nanoparticles exhibited specific homing toward human melanoma cell xenografts, overexpressing hVEGF, in zebrafish embryos. No evidence of this accumulation was observed in control organisms. These results indicate that nanoMIPs are promising materials which can be considered for advancing molecular oncological research, in particular when antibodies are less desirable due to their immunogenicity or long production time.