To evaluate non-invasive imaging methods as predictive biomarkers of response to trastuzumab in mouse models of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. The correlation between tumor regression and molecular imaging of apoptosis, glucose metabolism, and cellular proliferation was evaluated longitudinally in responding and non-responding tumor-bearing cohorts.
Mammary tumors from MMTV/HER2 transgenic female mice were transplanted into syngeneic female mice. BT474 human breast carcinoma cell line xenografts were grown in athymic nude mice. Tumor cell apoptosis (NIR700-Annexin-V accumulation), glucose metabolism ([18F]FDG-PET), and proliferation ([18F]FLT-PET) were evaluated throughout a bi-weekly trastuzumab regimen. Imaging metrics were validated by direct measurement of tumor size and immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis of cleaved caspase-3, phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT) and Ki67.
NIR700-Annexin-V accumulated significantly in trastuzumab-treated MMTV/HER2 and BT474 tumors that ultimately regressed, but not in non-responding or vehicle-treated tumors. Uptake of [18F]FDG was not affected by trastuzumab treatment in MMTV/HER2 or BT474 tumors. [18F]FLT PET imaging predicted trastuzumab response in BT474 tumors but not in MMTV/HER2 tumors, which exhibited modest uptake of [18F]FLT. Close agreement was observed between imaging metrics and IHC analysis.
Molecular imaging of apoptosis accurately predicts trastuzumab-induced regression of HER2(+) tumors and may warrant clinical exploration to predict early response to neoadjuvant trastuzumab. Trastuzumab does not appear to alter glucose metabolism substantially enough to afford [18F]FDG-PET significant predictive value in this setting. Although promising in one preclinical model, further studies are required to determine the overall value of [18F]FLT-PET as a biomarker of response to trastuzumab in HER2+ breast cancer.