DOI: 10.1186/s13550-018-0378-4Pages: 1-8

Hallmarks in prostate cancer imaging with Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT with reference to detection limits and quantitative properties

1. Karolinska Institutet, Department of Oncology-Pathology

2. Karolinska University Hospital, Department of Hospital Physics and Nuclear Medicine

3. Karolinska University Hospital, Department of Radiopharmacy

4. Karolinska Institutet, Department of Clinical Neuroscience

Correspondence to:
Alejandro Sanchez-Crespo




Gallium-68-labeled prostate-specific antigen positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging (Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT) has emerged as a potential gold standard for prostate cancer (PCa) diagnosis. However, the imaging limitations of this technique at the early state of PCa recurrence/metastatic spread are still not well characterized. The aim of this study was to determine the quantitative properties and the fundamental imaging limits of Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT in localizing small PCa cell deposits.


The human PCa LNCaP cells (PSMA expressing) were grown and collected as single cell suspension or as 3D-spheroids at different cell numbers and incubated with Ga68-PSMA-11. Thereafter, human HCT116 cells (PSMA negative) were added to a total cell number of 2 × 105 cells per tube. The tubes were then pelleted and the supernatant aspirated. A whole-body PET/CT scanner with a clinical routine protocol was used for imaging the pellets inside of a cylindrical water phantom with increasing amounts of background activity. The actual activity bound to the cells was also measured in an automatic gamma counter. Imaging detection limits and activity recovery coefficients as a function of LNCaP cell number were obtained. The effect of Ga68-PSMA-11 mass concentration on cell binding was also investigated in samples of LnCaP cells incubated with increasing concentrations of radioligand.


A total of 1 × 104 LNCaP cells mixed in a pellet of 2 × 105 cells were required to reach a 50% detection probability with Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT without background. With a background level of 1 kBq/ml, between 4 × 105 and 1 × 106 cells are required. The radioligand equilibrium dissociation constant was 27.05 nM, indicating high binding affinity. Hence, the specific activity of the radioligand has a profound effect on image quantification.


Ga68-PSMA-11-PET detects a small number of LNCaP cells even when they are mixed in a population of non-PSMA expressing cells and in the presence of background. The obtained image detection limits and characteristic quantification properties of Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT are essential hallmarks for the individualization of patient management. The use of the standardized uptake value for Ga68-PSMA-11-PET/CT image quantification should be precluded.

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  • Accepted: Mar 23, 2018
  • Online: Apr 4, 2018

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