Antibody–drug conjugates (ADC) have generated significant interest as targeted therapeutics for cancer treatment, demonstrating improved clinical efficacy and safety compared with systemic chemotherapy. To extend this concept to other tumor-targeting proteins, we conjugated the tubulin inhibitor monomethyl-auristatin-F (MMAF) to 2.5F–Fc, a fusion protein composed of a human Fc domain and a cystine knot (knottin) miniprotein engineered to bind with high affinity to tumor-associated integrin receptors. The broad expression of integrins (including αvβ3, αvβ5, and α5β1) on tumor cells and their vasculature makes 2.5F-Fc an attractive tumor-targeting protein for drug delivery. We show that 2.5F-Fc can be expressed by cell-free protein synthesis, during which a non-natural amino acid was introduced into the Fc domain and subsequently used for site-specific conjugation of MMAF through a noncleavable linker. The resulting knottin–Fc–drug conjugate (KFDC), termed 2.5F-Fc-MMAF, had approximately 2 drugs attached per KFDC. 2.5F–Fc–MMAF inhibited proliferation in human glioblastoma (U87MG), ovarian (A2780), and breast (MB-468) cancer cells to a greater extent than 2.5F–Fc or MMAF alone or added in combination. As a single agent, 2.5F–Fc–MMAF was effective at inducing regression and prolonged survival in U87MG tumor xenograft models when administered at 10 mg/kg two times per week. In comparison, tumors treated with 2.5F–Fc or MMAF were nonresponsive, and treatment with a nontargeted control, CTRL–Fc–MMAF, showed a modest but not significant therapeutic effect. These studies provide proof-of-concept for further development of KFDCs as alternatives to ADCs for tumor targeting and drug delivery applications. Mol Cancer Ther; 15(6); 1291–300. ©2016 AACR.
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Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Online (http://mct.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received November 11, 2015.
- Revision received March 16, 2016.
- Accepted March 17, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.