Peptides Targeting Chemotherapy-Resistant Metastatic Cancer Cells for Therapeutic and Diagnostic Use


Researchers at UTHealth have identified new molecules that selectively target metastatic cancer cells in mammals both in vitro and in vivo by screening a combinatorial library in a mouse mammary tumor model of spontaneous metastasis, and demonstrated their application as noninvasive imaging probes and vehicles for cytotoxic therapy delivery in preclinical cancer models.


Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and metastatic cancers remain largely incurable due to chemoresistance. Biomarkers of metastatic cells are lacking, and probes that could be used to detect and target metastases would be highly valuable. 


Dr. Kolonin and colleagues at UTHealth have screened a combinatorial library for cyclic peptides homing to chemotherapy-resistant metastatic cancer cells in mice and discovered several new molecules that specifically bind to metastatic cells. Significantly, their study has demonstrated the application of those lead peptides as noninvasive imaging probes and promising therapies targeting metastatic cancers.

Benefits/Technology Advantages

  • These peptides can selectively target chemotherapy-resistant metastatic cancer cells that have undergone epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and have the potential to become the promising therapeutics for the treatment of metastatic cancers
  • These peptides, conjugated with a cytotoxic domain, can selectively kill cancer cells in culture and reduce the metastatic burden when coupled with a cytotoxic domain
  • These peptides can be used as a probe when labeled with a radioactive isotope to identify chemotherapy-resistant metastatic cancer cells

Potential Applications

  • Use for diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of metastatic tumor cell-associated disorders
  • Development into peptide-drug conjugates killing aggressive cancer cells in primary tumors and metastases
  • Potential probes for detection of chemotherapy-resistant cancer cells in primary tumors and metastases in imaging applications

UTHealth Ref. No.  2021-0045

Inventors  Dr. Mikhail Kolonin, Dr. Alexes Daquinag, Shraddha Subramanian

Intellectual Property Status 

Associated Publication Cancer Res. 2021 Nov 15;81(22):5756-5764. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-1015

Patent Information:

The preceding is intended to be a non-confidential and limited description of a novel technology created at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). This promotional material is not comprehensive in scope and should not replace company’s diligence in a thorough evaluation of the technology. Please contact the Office of Technology Management for more information regarding this technology.
For Information, Contact:
Xiaoyan Wang
Technology Commercialization Analyst
University of Texas Health Science Center At Houston
Mikhail Kolonin
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