In vivo imaging of folate receptor positive tumor xenografts using novel 68Ga-NODAGA-folate conjugates.
The overexpression of the folate receptor (FR) in a variety of malignant tumors, along with its limited expression in healthy tissues, makes it an attractive tumor-specific molecular target. Noninvasive imaging of FR using radiolabeled folate derivatives is therefore highly desirable. Given the advantages of positron emission tomography (PET) and the convenience of (68)Ga production, the aim of our study was to develop a new (68)Ga-folate-based radiotracer for clinical application. The chelator 1,4,7-triazacyclononane,1-glutaric acid-4,7-acetic acid (NODAGA) was conjugated to folic acid and to 5,8-dideazafolic acid using 1,2-diaminoethane as a spacer, resulting in two novel conjugates, namely, P3246 and P3238, respectively. Both conjugates were labeled with (68/67)Ga. In vitro internalization, efflux, and saturation binding studies were performed using the FR-positive KB cell line. Biodistribution and small-animal PET imaging studies were performed in nude mice bearing subcutaneous KB xenografts. Both conjugates were labeled with (68)Ga at room temperature within 10 min in labeling yields >95% and specific activity ~30 GBq/?mol. The K(d) values of (68/67)Ga-P3246 (5.61 ± 0.96 nM) and (68/67)Ga-P3238 (7.21 ± 2.46 nM) showed high affinity for the FR. (68/67)Ga-P3246 showed higher cell-associated uptake in vitro than (68/67)Ga-P3238 (approximately 72 and 60% at 4 h, respectively, P < 0.01), while both radiotracers exhibited similar cellular retention up to 4 h (approximately 76 and 71%, respectively). Their biodistribution profile is characterized by high tumor uptake, fast blood clearance, low hepatobiliary excretion, and almost negligible background. Tumor uptake was already high at 1 h for both (68)Ga-P3246 and (68)Ga-P3238 (16.56 ± 3.67 and 10.95 ± 2.12% IA/g, respectively, P > 0.05) and remained at about the same level up to 4 h. Radioactivity also accumulated in the FR-positive organs, such as kidneys (91.52 ± 21.05 and 62.26 ± 14.32% IA/g, respectively, 1 h pi) and salivary glands (9.05 ± 2.03 and 10.39 ± 1.19% IA/g, respectively, 1 h pi). The specificity of the radiotracers for the FR was confirmed by blocking experiments where tumor uptake was reduced by more than 85%, while the uptake in the kidneys and the salivary glands was reduced by more than 90%. Reduction of the kidney uptake was achieved by administration of the antifolate pemetrexed 1 h prior to the injection of the radiotracers, which resulted in an improvement of tumor-to-kidney ratios by more than a factor of 3. In line with the biodistribution results, small-animal PET images showed high uptake in the kidneys, clear visualization of the tumor, accumulation of radioactivity in the salivary glands, and no uptake in the gastrointestinal tract. (68)Ga-P3246 and (68)Ga-P3238 showed very high tumor-to-background contrast in PET images; however, the tumor-to-kidney ratio remained low. The new radiotracers, especially (68)Ga-P3246, are promising as PET imaging probes for clinical application due to their facile preparation and improved in vivo profile as compared to the other folate-based PET radiotracers.