Molecular Imaging
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Acceptance rate28%
Submission to final decision75 days
Acceptance to publication20 days
CiteScore6.300
Journal Citation Indicator0.700
Impact Factor3.250

Article of the Year 2021

Granzyme B PET Imaging Stratifies Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Response in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

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 Journal profile

Molecular Imaging is a peer-reviewed journal highlighting the breadth of molecular imaging research from basic science to preclinical studies to human applications. Molecular Imaging covers all imaging modalities.

 Editor spotlight

Chief Editor Henry VanBrocklin is a Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, and Director of its Radiopharmaceutical Research Program. His research interests include short-lived radioisotope production and the creation of fluorine-18 and carbon-11 labeling chemistry strategies

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Research Article

Evaluation of Intraperitoneal [18F]-FDOPA Administration for Micro-PET Imaging in Mice and Assessment of the Effect of Subchronic Ketamine Dosing on Dopamine Synthesis Capacity

Positron emission tomography (PET) using the radiotracer [18F]-FDOPA provides a tool for studying brain dopamine synthesis capacity in animals and humans. We have previously standardised a micro-PET methodology in mice by intravenously administering [18F]-FDOPA via jugular vein cannulation and assessment of striatal dopamine synthesis capacity, indexed as the influx rate constant of [18F]-FDOPA, using an extended graphical Patlak analysis with the cerebellum as a reference region. This enables a direct comparison between preclinical and clinical output values. However, chronic intravenous catheters are technically difficult to maintain for longitudinal studies. Hence, in this study, intraperitoneal administration of [18F]-FDOPA was evaluated as a less-invasive alternative that facilitates longitudinal imaging. Our experiments comprised the following assessments: (i) comparison of [18F]-FDOPA uptake between intravenous and intraperitoneal radiotracer administration and optimisation of the time window used for extended Patlak analysis, (ii) comparison of in a within-subject design of both administration routes, (iii) test-retest evaluation of in a within-subject design of intraperitoneal radiotracer administration, and (iv) validation of estimates by comparing the two administration routes in a mouse model of hyperdopaminergia induced by subchronic ketamine. Our results demonstrate that intraperitoneal [18F]-FDOPA administration resulted in good brain uptake, with no significant effect of administration route on estimates (intraperitoneal: , intravenous: , ) and similar coefficient of variation (intraperitoneal: 19.6%; intravenous: 18.4%). The technique had a moderate test-retest validity (, ) and thus supports longitudinal studies. Following subchronic ketamine administration, elevated as compared to control condition was measured with a large effect size for both methods (intraperitoneal: Cohen’s ; intravenous: Cohen’s ), providing further evidence that ketamine has lasting effects on the dopamine system, which could contribute to its therapeutic actions and/or abuse liability.

Research Article

Biodistribution of a Mitochondrial Metabolic Tracer, [18F]F-AraG, in Healthy Volunteers

Purpose. [18F]F-AraG is a radiolabeled nucleoside analog that shows relative specificity for activated T cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the biodistribution of [18F]F-AraG in healthy volunteers and assess the preliminary safety and radiation dosimetry. Methods. Six healthy subjects (three female and three male) between the ages of 24 and 60 participated in the study. Each subject received a bolus venous injection of [18F]F-AraG (dose range: 244.2–329.3 MBq) prior to four consecutive PET/MR whole-body scans. Blood samples were collected at regular intervals and vital signs monitored before and after tracer administration. Regions of interest were delineated for multiple organs, and the area under the time-activity curves was calculated for each organ and used to derive time-integrated activity coefficient (TIAC). TIACs were input for absorbed dose and effective dose calculations using OLINDA. Results. PET/MR examination was well tolerated, and no adverse effects to the administration of [18F]F-AraG were noted by the study participants. The biodistribution was generally reflective of the expression and activity profiles of the enzymes involved in [18F]F-AraG’s cellular accumulation, mitochondrial kinase dGK, and SAMHD1. The highest uptake was observed in the kidneys and liver, while the brain, lung, bone marrow, and muscle showed low tracer uptake. The estimated effective dose for [18F]F-AraG was 0.0162 mSv/MBq (0.0167 mSv/MBq for females and 0.0157 mSv/MBq for males). Conclusion. Biodistribution of [18F]F-AraG in healthy volunteers was consistent with its association with mitochondrial metabolism. PET/MR [18F]F-AraG imaging was well tolerated, with a radiation dosimetry profile similar to other commonly used [18F]-labeled tracers. [18F]F-AraG’s connection with mitochondrial biogenesis and favorable biodistribution characteristics make it an attractive tracer with a variety of potential applications.

Research Article

[18F]-(2S,4R)4-Fluoroglutamine PET Imaging of Glutamine Metabolism in Murine Models of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

Purpose. Quantitative in vivo [18F]-(2S,4R)4-fluoroglutamine ([18F]4-FGln or more simply [18F]FGln) metabolic kinetic parameters are compared with activity levels of glutamine metabolism in different types of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Methods. For this study, we used two transgenic mouse models of HCC induced by protooncogenes, MYC, and MET. Biochemical data have shown that tumors induced by MYC have increased levels of glutamine metabolism compared to those induced by MET. One-hour dynamic [18F]FGln PET data were acquired and reconstructed for fasted MYC mice ( tumors from 7 animals), fasted MET mice ( tumors from 6 animals), fasted FVBN controls ( normal liver regions from 6 animals), nonfasted MYC mice ( tumors from 6 animals), and nonfasted FVBN controls ( normal liver regions from 3 animals). The influx rate constants () using the one-tissue compartment model were derived for each tumor with the left ventricular blood pool input function. Results. Influx rate constants were significantly higher for MYC tumors () than for MET tumors () under fasting conditions (). Rate constants were also significantly lower for MET tumors () than normal livers () under fasting conditions (). Fasting conditions tested for MYC tumors and normal livers did not result in any significant difference with values > 0.005. Conclusion. Higher influx rate constants corresponded to elevated levels of glutamine metabolism as determined by biochemical assays. The data showed that there is a distinctive difference in glutamine metabolism between MYC and MET tumors. Our study has demonstrated the potential of [18F]FGln PET imaging as a tool to assess glutamine metabolism in HCC tumors in vivo with a caution that it may not be able to clearly distinguish HCC tumors from normal liver tissue.

Research Article

Performance Evaluation of a Preclinical SPECT Scanner with a Collimator Designed for Medium-Sized Animals

Background. Equipped with two stationary detectors, a large bore collimator for medium-sized animals has been recently introduced for dedicated preclinical single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging. We aimed to evaluate the basic performance of the system using phantoms and healthy rabbits. Methods. A general-purpose medium-sized animal (GP-MSA) collimator with 135 mm bore diameter and thirty-three holes of 2.5 mm diameter was installed on an ultrahigh-resolution scanner equipped with two large stationary detectors (U-SPECT5-E/CT). The sensitivity and uniformity were investigated using a point source and a cylinder phantom containing 99mTc-pertechnetate, respectively. Uniformity (in %) was derived using volumes of interest (VOIs) on images of the cylinder phantom and calculated as , with lower values of % indicating superior performance. The spatial resolution and contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs) were evaluated with images of a hot-rod Derenzo phantom using different activity concentrations. Feasibility of in vivo SPECT imaging was finally confirmed by rabbit imaging with the most commonly used clinical myocardial perfusion SPECT agent [99mTc]Tc-sestamibi (dynamic acquisition with a scan time of 5 min). Results. In the performance evaluation, a sensitivity of 790 cps/MBq, a spatial resolution with the hot-rod phantom of 2.5 mm, and a uniformity of 39.2% were achieved. The CNRs of the rod size 2.5 mm were 1.37, 1.24, 1.20, and 0.85 for activity concentration of 29.2, 1.0, 0.5, and 0.1 MBq/mL, respectively. Dynamic SPECT imaging in rabbits allowed to visualize most of the thorax and to generate time-activity curves of the left myocardial wall and ventricular cavity. Conclusion. Preclinical U-SPECT5-E/CT equipped with a large bore collimator demonstrated adequate sensitivity and resolution for in vivo rabbit imaging. Along with its unique features of SPECT molecular functional imaging is a superior collimator technology that is applicable to medium-sized animal models and thus may promote translational research for diagnostic purposes and development of novel therapeutics.

Research Article

Preclinical Evaluation of an Activity-Based Probe for Intraoperative Imaging of Esophageal Cancer

Background. Early detection and complete resection are important prognostic factors for esophageal cancer (EC). Intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) using tumor-targeted tracers is effective in many cancer types. However, there are no EC-specific IMI tracers. We sought to test a cathepsin activity-based tracer (VGT-309) for EC resection. Methods. Murine (AKR, HNM007) and human (OE19) EC cell lines were screened for cathepsin expression by western blotting. In vitro binding affinity of VGT-309 was evaluated by fluorescence microscopy. Flank tumor models were developed by injecting EC cells into the flanks of BALB/c or athymic nude mice. Mice pretreated with a cathepsin inhibitor (JPM-OEt) were used to confirm on target binding. Animals were injected with 2 mg/kg VGT-309, underwent IMI, and were sacrificed 24 hours after injection. Results. Cathepsins B, L, S, and X were expressed by EC cell lines, and all cell lines were labeled in vitro with VGT-309. Fluorescent signal was eliminated when cells were pretreated with JPM-OEt. On biodistribution analysis, VGT-309 accumulated in the liver, kidneys, and spleen without other organ involvement. VGT-309 selectively accumulated in flank allografts and xenografts, with mean signal-to-background ratio of 5.21 (IQR: 4.18-6.73) for flank allografts and 4.34 (IQR: 3.75-5.02) for flank xenografts. Fluorescence microscopy and histopathological analysis confirmed the selective accumulation of the tracer in tumors compared to background normal tissues. Conclusions. VGT-309 is an effective tracer for IMI of esophageal cancer. There is potential for clinical translation both as an adjunct to endoscopic detection and for complete removal of disease during esophagectomy.

Research Article

In Vivo Distribution and Therapeutic Efficacy of Radioiodine-Labeled pH-Low Insertion Peptide Variant 3 in a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer

Purpose. Extracellular acidity is a marker of highly aggressive breast cancer (BC). pH-low insertion peptides (pHLIPs) target the acidic tumor microenvironment. This study evaluates the distribution and therapeutic efficacy of radioiodine-labeled pHLIP variant 3 (Var3) in a mouse model of BC. Methods. The binding of fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)- or radioiodine-125 (125I) labeled Var3-pHLIP to MDA-MB-231, 4T1, and SK-BR-3 BC cell lines under different pH values was evaluated in vitro. The distribution of 125I-labeled Var3-pHLIP and wild-type- (WT-) pHLIP in tumor-bearing mice was analyzed in vivo using micro-SPECT/CT imaging. The therapeutic efficacy of radioiodine-131 (131I)-labeled Var3-pHLIP in MDA-MB-231 xenografts was evaluated by relative tumor volume measurement and immunohistochemical analysis. Results. The binding ability of FITC- or 125I-labeled Var3-pHLIP to tumor cells increased with the decrease in pH. The tumor-to-background ratio of 125I-Var3-pHLIP in BC xenografts showed the best imaging contrast at 24 h or 48 h postinjection. The uptake of 125I-Var3-pHLIP in MDA-MB-231 xenografts at 2 h postinjection was significantly higher than that of 125I-WT-pHLIP ( vs. %ID/g, ). The relative tumor volume in MDA-MB-231 xenografts was significantly lower in the 131I-Var3-pHLIP-treated group than in the groups treated with Var3-pHLIP (), 131I (), and saline (). The 131I-Var 3-pHLIP group presented a lower expression of Ki67 and a higher expression of caspase 3. Conclusion. Radioiodine-labeled Var3-pHLIP effectively targeted BC cells in an acidic environment and inhibited the growth of MDA-MB-231 xenografts by ionizing radiation.

Molecular Imaging
Publishing Collaboration
More info
Sage logo
 Journal metrics
See full report
Acceptance rate28%
Submission to final decision75 days
Acceptance to publication20 days
CiteScore6.300
Journal Citation Indicator0.700
Impact Factor3.250
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Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2021, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.