Antibody (Ab) fragments have great clinical potential as cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. Their small size allows for fast clearance from blood, low immunoreactivity, better tumor penetration, and simpler engineering and production. The smallest fragment derived from a full-length IgG that retains binding to its antigen, the single-chain variable fragment (scFV), is engineered by fusing the variable light and variable heavy domains with a peptide linker. Along with switching the domain orientation, altering the length and amino acid sequence of the linker can significantly affect scFV binding, stability, quaternary structure, and other biophysical properties. Comprehensive studies of these attributes in a single scaffold have not been reported, making design and optimization of Ab fragments challenging. Here, we constructed libraries of 3E8, an Ab specific to tumor-associated glycoprotein 72 (TAG-72), a mucinous glycoprotein overexpressed in 80% of adenocarcinomas. We cloned, expressed, and characterized scFVs, diabodies, and higher-order multimer constructs with varying linker compositions, linker lengths, and domain orientations. These constructs dramatically differed in their oligomeric states and stabilities, not only because of linker and orientation but also related to the purification method. For example, protein L–purified constructs tended to have broader distributions and higher oligomeric states than has been reported previously. From this library, we selected an optimal construct, 3E8.G4S, for biodistribution and pharmacokinetic studies and in vivo xenograft mouse PET imaging. These studies revealed significant tumor targeting of 3E8.G4S with a tumor-to-background ratio of 29:1. These analyses validated 3E8.G4S as a fast, accurate, and specific tumor-imaging agent.
Chemistry and Pharmacology