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  • Poster presentation
  • Open Access
  • In vivo targeting of cutaneous melanoma using an MSH-engineered human protein cage bearing fluorophore and MRI tracers

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    Journal of Translational Medicine201412 (Suppl 1) :P6

    • Published:


    • Melanoma
    • Ferritin
    • Human Protein
    • Cutaneous Melanoma
    • Primary Melanoma


    Nanoparticle (NP)-based materials are very promising agents for enhancing cancer diagnosis and treatment. Once functionalized for selective targeting of tumor expressed molecules, they can specifically deliver drugs and diagnostic molecules inside tumor cells.

    Materials and methods

    In the present work, we evaluated the in vivo melanoma-targeting ability of a nanovector (HFt-MSH-PEG) based on human protein ferritin (HFt), functionalized with both melanoma-targeting melanoma stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and stabilizing poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) molecules. We used two independent and complementary techniques, such as whole-specimen confocal microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging, to detect the in vivo localization of NP constructs endowed with suitable tracers (i.e., fluorophores or magnetic metals).


    Targeted HFt-MSH-PEG NPs were shown to accumulate persistently at the level of primary melanoma and with high selectivity with respect to other organs. Melanoma localization of untargeted HFt-PEG NPs, lacking the α-MSH moiety, was less pronounced and disappeared after a few days. Further, HFt-MSH-PEG NPs accumulated to a significantly lower extent and with a different distribution in a diverse type of tumor (TS/A adenocarcinoma), which does not express α-MSH receptors. Finally, in a spontaneous lung metastasis model, HFt-MSH-PEG NPs localized at the metastasis level as well.


    These results point at HFt-MSH-PEG NPs as suitable carriers for selective in vivo delivery of diagnostic or therapeutic agents to cutaneous melanoma.

    Authors’ Affiliations

    Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (ASCR), v.v.i., Prague, Czech Republic
    Institute of Molecular Biology and Pathology, CNR – National Research Council of Italy, Rome, Italy
    Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, IDI-IRCCS, Rome, Italy
    Department of Biochemical Sciences “A. Rossi Fanelli”, University of Rome “Sapienza”, Italy
    Department of Molecular and Cellular Imaging, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy
    Center for Life Nano Science at Sapienza, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy


    © Vannucci et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

    This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.