UNLABELLED - Translocator protein (TSPO), also referred to as peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), is a crucial 18-kDa outer mitochondrial membrane protein involved in numerous cellular functions, including the regulation of cholesterol metabolism, steroidogenesis, and apoptosis. Elevated expression of TSPO in oncology correlates with disease progression and poor survival, suggesting that molecular probes capable of assaying TSPO levels may have potential as cancer imaging biomarkers. In preclinical PET studies, we characterized a high-affinity aryloxyanilide-based TSPO imaging ligand, 18F-N-fluoroacetyl-N-(2,5-dimethoxybenzyl)-2-phenoxyaniline (18F-PBR06), as a candidate probe for the quantitative assessment of TSPO expression in glioma.
METHODS - Glioma-bearing rats were imaged with 18F-PBR06 in a small-animal PET system. Dynamic images were acquired simultaneously on injection of 18F-PBR06 (70-100 MBq/0.2 mL). Over the course of scanning, arterial blood was collected to derive the input function, with high-performance liquid chromatography radiometabolite analysis performed on selected samples for arterial input function correction. Compartmental modeling of the PET data was performed using the corrected arterial input function. Specific tumor cell binding of PBR06 was evaluated by radioligand displacement of 3H-PK 11195 with PBR06 in vitro and by displacement of 18F-PBR06 with excess PBR06 in vivo. Immediately after imaging, tumor tissue and adjacent healthy brain were harvested for assay of TSPO protein levels by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS - 18F-PBR06 was found to preferentially accumulate in tumors, with modest uptake in the contralateral brain, facilitating excellent contrast between tumor and adjacent tissue. Infusion with PBR06 (10 mg/kg) displaced 18F-PBR06 binding by approximately 75%. The accumulation of 18F-PBR06 in tumor tissues and adjacent brain agreed with the ex vivo assay of TSPO protein levels by Western blotting and quantitative immunohistochemistry.
CONCLUSION - These preclinical studies illustrate that 18F-PBR06 is a promising tracer for visualization of TSPO-expressing tumors. Importantly, the close correlation between 18F-PBR06 uptake and TSPO expression in tumors and normal tissues, coupled with the high degree of displaceable binding from both tumors and the normal brain, represents a significant improvement over other TSPO imaging ligands previously evaluated in glioma. These data suggest the potential of 18F-PBR06 to elucidate the role of TSPO in oncology, as well as its potential development as a cancer imaging biomarker.