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Targeted contrast agents to better detect pancreatic tunor and its zinc content by MRI on mice

Project description

Determining zinc content in cancer with MRI

Prompt diagnosis and therapies for pancreatic cancer are limited, leading to a dismal prognosis and low survival rate. Emerging evidence indicates that pancreatic cancer cells present low levels of zinc importers and zinc content, while treatment with the zinc ionophore clioquinol inhibits tumour growth. The EU-funded tZR-CA-InVivo project aims to develop a magnetic resonance imaging tool, namely a zinc-responsive contrast agent to quantify zinc content in tissues. The contrasting agent will be designed to specifically target the tumour and provide a means for monitoring zinc levels in patients with cancer and evaluate the need to increase it.


Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers in Europe, the median survival time is only a few months due to the lack of test for early diagnosis, and no effective therapies for metastatic forms. Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC), like prostate and hepatocellular cancers present a down regulation of zinc importers and low zinc content. Treatment with clioquinol, a zinc ionophore, to increase the amount of zinc in the tumor has shown to inhibit tumor growth.

This project aims at creating new tool to better detect PDAC by Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and the evaluation of di zinc ionophore to elevate the content in zinc in the tumor environment.

Using the same modular approach, a normal and a zinc responsive contrast agent targeted to the PDAC will be synthesized by conjugation of a peptidic sequence known to target the tumor bearing a Single Core Multimodal Imaging Platform for quantification, with a peptide functionalized with a normal or zinc responsive contrast agent. After careful characterizations in vitro and ex vivo, they will be used in mice implanted with orthoptic pancreatic tumors.

One of the projects developed by the “Metallic complexes for MRI” group, consist designing and using MRI probe for various substrates, including zinc. The group masters all the techniques to characterize the contrast agents, and the experience researcher (ER) will bring the knowledge about zinc biology, and infrared microscopy to quantify the contrast agent in tissues.

Benefiting from the competitive interdisciplinary environment of CBM, and within the group, the ER will acquire new technical skills, knowledge and network the frontier between chemistry, biology and MRI imaging, in particular working with animal model (mice), to adequately implement the project and complete her skill set to become an independent researcher interested in developing tools to study the role of metals in biological context.


Net EU contribution
€ 196 707,84
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 196 707,84