CFP - Special Issue

Urokinase Plasminogen Activator Receptor (uPAR) Targeted Theranostics for Image-Guided Treatment of Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases

Guest editors:

Lily Yang, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery and Radiology
Nancy Panoz Chair of Surgery in Cancer Research
Winship Cancer Institute
Emory University School of Medicine
Clinic C, Room C-4088
1365 C Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30322

Hui Mao, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Radiology and Imaging Science
Center for Systems Imaging
Emory University School of Medicine
1821 Clifton Road, NE.
Atlanta, GA 30322

Human cancers and atherosclerotic vascular diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide. The development of theranostic agents targeting a cellular receptor that is highly expressed in both diseases, such as urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), offers a prime opportunity for targeted therapy and image-guided treatment of the patients. Urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) is a serine protease that interacts with uPAR to activate matrix proteases and regulate cellular pathways that are involved in matrix degradation, cell motility, and angiogenesis.

Increasing evidence supports the involvement of the uPA/uPAR system in tumorigenesis, metastasis, and angiogenesis. High levels of uPA and uPAR expression have been demonstrated in many solid tumor types and their expression levels correlate well with the prognosis of cancer patients. There is a range of options to prepare uPAR targeting ligands for theranostics, including: 1) recombinant peptide fragments of the receptor binding domain of its natural ligand uPA that are produced from bacteria expression system; 2) synthetic short peptides or peptide mimetics; and 3) human or mouse antibodies.  uPAR-targeted theranostics have several advantages, such as targeting both tumor stromal and cancer cells that improves intratumoral distribution, and receptor-mediated internalization that enhances the accumulation of the therapeutic agents in the tumor cells.

It has been shown that uPAR is highly expressed in the angiogenic endothelial cells, macrophages, fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells in atherosclerotic plaques. Therefore, uPAR targeted theranostics should have potential to be applied for the detection and imaging-guided treatment of atherosclerotic plaques.  The effect of the uPAR-targeted theranostic agents and approaches on cardiovascular diseases after systemic administration is becoming increasingly recognized and should be fully investigated.

To facilitate the advances in developing uPAR targeted theranostics, we would like to invite investigators to submit reviews or original research articles concerning the following areas and topics:

  • Biology of the uPA/uPAR system in human cancers and its unique characteristics for developing theranostic agents;
  • High affinity targeting ligands for uPAR;
  • Current advances in the development of uPAR blocking agents for cancer therapy;
  • uPAR-targeted radiotracers for tumor imaging;
  • MR-imageable uPAR-targeted contrast materials, such as magnetic nanoparticles, for image-guided drug delivery;
  • Image-guided surgery using uPAR-targeted optical imaging theranostic agents;
  • uPAR-targeted multimodality imaging nanoparticles for detection and image-guided treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Manuscripts for the special issue can be sent directly to the guest editors by email with the subject "uPAR Targeting Special Issue", or submitted online at (mark "uPAR Targeting Special Issue" in the "Suggested reviewers" field to identify the paper). Detailed formatting instructions, in particular, the formatting of references, can be found in
All inquiries should be sent to the guest editors at the above email addresses.