DOI: 10.1007/s00259-017-3650-3Pages: 1337-1346

Intra-image referencing for simplified assessment of HER2-expression in breast cancer metastases using the Affibody molecule ABY-025 with PET and SPECT

1. Uppsala University, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology

2. Uppsala University, Section of Nuclear Medicine and PET, Department of Surgical Sciences

3. Affibody AB

Correspondence to:
Dan Sandberg




In phase I/II-studies radiolabelled ABY-025 Affibody molecules identified human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) expression in breast cancer metastases using PET and SPECT imaging. Here, we wanted to investigate the utility of a simple intra-image normalization using tumour-to-reference tissue-ratio (T/R) as a HER2 status discrimination strategy to overcome potential issues related to cross-calibration of scanning devices.


Twenty-three women with pre-diagnosed HER2-positive/negative metastasized breast cancer were scanned with [111In]-ABY-025 SPECT/CT (n = 7) or [68Ga]-ABY-025 PET/CT (n = 16). Uptake was measured in all metastases and in normal spleen, lung, liver, muscle, and blood pool. Normal tissue uptake variation and T/R-ratios were established for various time points and for two different doses of injected peptide from a total of 94 whole-body image acquisitions. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was used to verify HER2 expression in 28 biopsied metastases. T/R-ratios were compared to IHC findings to establish the best reference tissue for each modality and each imaging time-point. The impact of shed HER2 in serum was investigated.


Spleen was the best reference tissue across modalities, followed by blood pool and lung. Spleen-T/R was highly correlated to PET SUV in metastases after 2 h (r = 0.96, P < 0.001) and reached an accuracy of 100% for discriminating IHC HER2-positive and negative metastases at 4 h (PET) and 24 h (SPECT) after injection. In a single case, shed HER2 resulted in intense tracer retention in blood. In the remaining patients shed HER2 was elevated, but without significant impact on ABY-025 biodistribution.


T/R-ratios using spleen as reference tissue accurately quantify HER2 expression with radiolabelled ABY-025 imaging in breast cancer metastases with SPECT and PET. Tracer binding to shed HER2 in serum might affect quantification in the extreme case.

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  • Accepted: Feb 8, 2017
  • Online: Mar 6, 2017

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