S Schelhaas, L Wachsmuth, T Viel, DJ Honess, K Heinzmann, D-M Smith, S Hermann, S Wagner, MT Kuhlmann, C Müller-Tidow, K Kopka, O Schober, M Schäfers, R Schneider, EO Aboagye, J Griffiths, C Faber, AH Jacobs
J Nucl Med
UNLABELLED: Molecular imaging allows the noninvasive assessment of cancer progression and response to therapy. The aim of this study was to investigate molecular and cellular determinants of 3'-deoxy-3'-(18)F-fluorothymidine ((18)F-FLT) PET and diffusion-weighted (DW) MR imaging in lung carcinoma xenografts. METHODS: Four lung cancer cell lines (A549, HTB56, EBC1, and H1975) were subcutaneously implanted in nude mice, and growth was followed by caliper measurements. Glucose uptake and tumor proliferation were determined by (18)F-FDG and (18)F-FLT PET, respectively. T2-weighted MR imaging was performed, and the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was determined by DW MR imaging as an indicator of cell death. Imaging findings were correlated to histology with markers for tumor proliferation (Ki67, 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine [BrdU]) and cell death (caspase-3, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling). The expression of human equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (hENT1), thymidine kinase 1 (TK1), thymidylate synthase, and thymidine phosphorylase (TP) were analyzed by Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Thymidine levels were determined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. RESULTS: Xenografts varied with respect to in vivo growth rates. MR imaging and PET revealed intratumoral heterogeneities, which were confirmed by histology. (18)F-FLT uptake differed significantly between tumor lines, with A549 and H1975 demonstrating the highest radiotracer accumulation (A549, 8.5 ± 3.2; HTB56, 4.4 ± 0.7; EBC1, 4.4 ± 1.2; and H1975, 12.1 ± 3.5 maximal percentage injected dose per milliliter). In contrast, differences in (18)F-FDG uptake were only marginal. No clear relationship between (18)F-FLT accumulation and immunohistochemical markers for tumor proliferation (Ki67, BrdU) as well as hENT1, TK1, or TS expression was detected. However, TP was highly expressed in A549 and H1975 xenografts, which was accompanied by low tumor thymidine concentrations, suggesting that tumor thymidine levels influence (18)F-FLT uptake in the tumor models investigated. MR imaging revealed higher ADC values within proliferative regions of H1975 and A549 tumors than in HTB56 and EBC1. These ADC values were negatively correlated with cell density but not directly related to cell death. CONCLUSION: A direct relationship of (18)F-FLT with proliferation or ADC with cell death might be complicated by the interplay of multiple processes at the cellular and physiologic levels in untreated tumors. This issue must be considered when using these imaging modalities in preclinical or clinical settings.