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J Nucl Med. 2012 Apr;53(4):629-37. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.111.096685. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

Potential of PET to predict the response to trastuzumab treatment in an ErbB2-positive human xenograft tumor model.

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Radiation Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Currently, an alteration in the gross volume of a tumor is used to assess its response to trastuzumab; however, this approach provides only a late indication of response. Tissue-sample ex vivo assays are potentially valuable, but their procurement through biopsies is invasive and might be biased by tumor heterogeneity. We studied the feasibility of using PET to quantify changes in ErbB2 (HER2/neu) expression and to predict the response to trastuzumab in BT474 breast cancer xenografts with N-[2-(4-(18)F-fluorobenzamido)ethyl]maleimide ((18)F-FBEM)-HER(2:342) Affibody.


Mice bearing BT474 tumors were given trastuzumab (50 mg/kg loading dose, 25 mg/kg maintenance dose, administered intraperitoneally twice a week) or saline (control) for a total of 5 doses. Tumor size was monitored twice a week. Animals were scanned before the treatment, at 48 h, and 2 wk after the beginning of therapy. After the final scan, PET results were correlated with tumor response and immunohistochemical assessment of ErbB2 level, as well as with vasculature in the treated tumors.


Analysis of PET images indicated that tracer uptake was significantly reduced after 1 dose of trastuzumab, compared with baseline, suggesting applicability as an early indicator of changes in ErbB2 expression. After 5 doses of trastuzumab, the overall decrease in (18)F-FBEM-HER(2:342) Affibody uptake also correlated with tumor response and downregulation of ErbB2 expression by immunohistochemical assessment. However, individual animals had different responses. There was a correlation between bigger PET changes and a higher vessel count in the tumors, suggesting that an increased number of vessels could lead to better trastuzumab delivery. We confirmed that the difference in average vessel count in the tumors was not related to the size of the tumors and therefore was not due to the selection of more vascular tumors. This finding is consistent with previous findings demonstrating that the number of vessels in a tumor could be a useful prognostic marker for treatment response.


Our data suggest that Affibody-based PET can noninvasively provide specific information on changes in receptor expression and could be a valuable strategy for predicting tumor response to trastuzumab.

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