A rapid, reliable method for distinguishing tumors or metastases that overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) from those that do not is highly desired for improvement of cancer care. In v ivo imaging methods are available, but are not yet in clinical practice; new methodologies improving speed, sensitivity and specificity are required. Here we describe promising results with a HER2‐binding Affibody molecule, ZHER2:342, recombinantly fused with a C‐terminal selenocysteine‐containing tetrapeptide Sel‐tag and site‐specifically labeled with either 11C or 68Ga for molecular imaging applications with positron emissiontomography (PET).
In mice, both the 11C‐ and 68Ga‐labeled tracers initially cleared rapidly from the blood, followed by a slower decrease to 4‐5 %ID/g at 1 h. Final uptake in kidneys was much lower (> 5‐fold) for the 11C‐labeled protein, leading to markedly reduced background radioactivity in the abdomen. Furthermore, 11C‐labeled Sel‐tagged ZHER2:342 showed excellent tumor targeting capability, with almost 10 %ID/g in HER2 expressing tumors within the first hour. High specificity was demonstrated by preblocking the binding sites with excess ligand, which yielded low radiotracer uptakes, comparable to those in tumors with low endogenous HER2 expression.
To our knowledge the Sel‐tagging technique is the first that enables site‐specific 11C radiolabelingof proteins. Here we present that, in a favorable combination between radionuclide half‐life and in vivo pharmacokinetics of the Affibody molecules, 11C‐labeled Sel taggedZHER2:342 can successfully be used for rapid and repeated PET studies of HER2 expression in tumors.