DOI: 10.1007/s00259-018-4098-9Pages: 1-15

Clinical translation of [18F]ICMT-11 for measuring chemotherapy-induced caspase 3/7 activation in breast and lung cancer

1. Hammersmith Hospital, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London

2. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Department of Radiology

3. University of Rome, Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering Antonio Ruberti

4. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Department of Oncology

Correspondence to:
Eric O. Aboagye
Tel: 020 3313 3759




Effective anticancer therapy is thought to involve induction of tumour cell death through apoptosis and/or necrosis. [18F]ICMT-11, an isatin sulfonamide caspase-3/7-specific radiotracer, has been developed for PET imaging and shown to have favourable dosimetry, safety, and biodistribution. We report the translation of [18F]ICMT-11 PET to measure chemotherapy-induced caspase-3/7 activation in breast and lung cancer patients receiving first-line therapy.


Breast tumour SUVmax of [18F]ICMT-11 was low at baseline and unchanged following therapy. Measurement of M30/M60 cytokeratin-18 cleavage products showed that therapy was predominantly not apoptosis in nature. While increases in caspase-3 staining on breast histology were seen, post-treatment caspase-3 positivity values were only approximately 1%; this low level of caspase-3 could have limited sensitive detection by [18F]ICMT-11-PET. Fourteen out of 15 breast cancer patients responded to first–line chemotherapy (complete or partial response); one patient had stable disease. Four patients showed increases in regions of high tumour [18F]ICMT-11 intensity on voxel-wise analysis of tumour data (classed as PADS); response was not exclusive to patients with this phenotype. In patients with lung cancer, multi-parametric [18F]ICMT-11 PET and MRI (diffusion-weighted- and dynamic contrast enhanced-MRI) showed that PET changes were concordant with cell death in the absence of significant perfusion changes.


This study highlights the potential use of [18F]ICMT-11 PET as a promising candidate for non-invasive imaging of caspase3/7 activation, and the difficulties encountered in assessing early-treatment responses. We summarize that tumour response could occur in the absence of predominant chemotherapy-induced caspase-3/7 activation measured non-invasively across entire tumour lesions in patients with breast and lung cancer.

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  • Accepted: Jul 17, 2018
  • Online: Sep 27, 2018

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