In vivo assessment of apoptotic response to cancer therapy is believed to be very important for optimizing management of treatment. However, few noninvasive strategies are currently available to monitor the therapeutic response in vivo. Ultrasonography has been used to detect apoptotic cell death in vivo, but a high-frequency transducer is needed. Fortunately, the capability of ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) to exit the leaky vasculature of tumors enables ultrasound-targeted imaging of molecular events in response to cancer therapy. In this study, we prepared a novel nano-sized UCA, namely, Annexin V-conjugated nanobubbles (AV-NBs, 635.5 ± 25.4 nm). In vitro studies revealed that AV-NBs were relatively stable and highly echogenic. Moreover, these AV-NBs could easily extravasate into the tumor vasculature and recognize the apoptotic cells with high specificity and affinity in tumors sensitive to chemotherapy. Ultrasound imaging results demonstrated that AV-NBs had higher echogenicity and significantly greater enhancement compared with the untargeted control NBs (P < 0.01) inside the tumors after chemotherapy. Taken together, this study provides a promising method to accurately evaluate therapeutic effects at the molecular level to support cancer management.Graphical abstract
Schematic diagrams of AV-NBs for assessing apoptotic response in cancer therapy.