Penetration of Nanobody-Dextran Polymer Conjugates through Tumor Spheroids
Here we report the generation of nanobody dextran polymer conjugates (dextraknobs) that are loaded with small molecules, i.e., fluorophores or photosensitizers, for potential applications in cancer diagnostics and therapy. To this end, the molecules are conjugated to the dextran polymer which is coupled to the C-terminus of an EGFR-specific nanobody using chemoenzymatic approaches. A monovalent EGFR-targeted nanobody and biparatopic version modified with different dextran average molecular weights (1000, 5000, and 10,000) were probed for their ability to penetrate tumor spheroids. For monovalent Cy5-labeled dextraknobs, the utilization of smaller sized dextran (MW 5000 vs. 10,000) was found to be beneficial for more homogeneous penetration into A431 tumor spheroids over time. For the biparatopic dual nanobody comprising MW 1000, 5000, and 10,000 dextran labeled with photosensitizer IRDye700DX, penetration behavior was comparable to that of a direct nanobody-photosensitizer conjugate lacking a dextran scaffold. Additionally, dextraknobs labeled with IRDye700DX incubated with cells in 2D and 3D showed potent cell killing upon illumination, thus inducing photodynamic therapy (PDT). In line with previous results, monovalent nanobody conjugates displayed deeper and more homogenous penetration through spheroids than the bivalent conjugates. Importantly, the smaller size dextrans did not affect the distribution of the conjugates, thus encouraging further development of dextraknobs.