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Evaluation of methotrexate-conjugated gadolinium(III) for cancer diagnosis and treatment

Authors Xu D, Lu ST, Li YS, Baidya A, Mei H, He Y, Wu B

Received 28 June 2018

Accepted for publication 14 September 2018

Published 5 October 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 3301—3309

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S178569

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Tuo Deng


Dan Xu,1 Shu-Ting Lu,2 Yu-Shuang Li,2 Aju Baidya,2 Hao Mei,2 Yong He,1 Bo Wu2


1Department of Nuclear Medicine, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, PR China; 2Department of Radiology, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, PR China


Background: Gliomas are one of the most common types of primary brain tumors. It is usually evaluated by gadolinium(III)-based contrast agents by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the clinic. Methotrexate (MTX), as a type of folate analog that inhibits the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, is widely used as a chemotherapeutic agent to treat gliomas in the experiment.
Purpose: In this study, a novel theranostic agent MTX-DOTA-Gd (MTX-Gd) was synthesized, which integrates magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with anticancer treatment.
Methods: MTX-Gd was synthesized by connecting MTX and Gd through 1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetraacetic acid (DOTA). The characterization of MTX-Gd was detected by ultraviolet (UV) and infrared spectroscopy (IR). To confirm the antitumor effect of MTX-Gd, the cytotoxicity of MTX-Gd was examined by the MTT assay. The contrast enhancement of the MTX-Gd was measured through MRI in vitro. Then, nude mice bearing C6 tumor xenografts were used to study in vivo imaging capabilities.
Results: The ultraviolet-visible-near infrared radiation (UV-NIR) absorption curve indicated that MTX-Gd had a broad absorption in the region of 500-700 nm. The formation of MTX-Gd was confirmed from the characteristic bands of MTX-DOTA-Gd in the 1413 cm-1 (C-N), 1577 cm-1 (-NH2), and 3429 cm-1 (N-H), in the fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectra. MTX-Gd showed little difference in the cell viability compared with MTX, except for the highest concentration (270 μM). In vitro, the imaging of MTX-Gd was significantly brighter than Gd-DOTA at the same concentration, and the brightness and signal intensity of MRI were increased followed by the increased concentration of MTX-Gd. And it also showed that MTX was not visualized on MRI. The other images revealed that the concentration of 4 mM MTX-Gd had the same imaging effect with the concentration of 10 mM Gd-DOTA. Then, MTX-Gd was injected in nude mice bearing C6 tumor xenografts through the tail vein. Significant contrast enhancement was observed at the tumor site from 0.5 h to 3 h. The signal of tumor area was strongest at 3 h due to accumulation by size effect of macromolecules.
Conclusion: A novel stable and unique theranostic agent(MTX-Gd) was successfully synthesized, and it has good stability, strong anticancer ability and excellent magnetic capacity. The methotrexate component of MTX-Gd, as a chemotherapeutic agent, played an important role in targeted therapies of cancer. The DOTA-Gd component of MTX-Gd performed as the MRI contrast agent. The superior MRI imaging performance and synergetic chemical antineoplastic ability of MTX-Gd was revealed, and it has great potential in the diagnosis and treatment of glioma and potentially other cancers, with prospects of clinical application in the near future.


Keywords: methotrexate, gadolinium, glioma, theranostics

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