DOI: 10.1186/s13550-018-0442-0Pages: 1-9

PET imaging of chemokine receptor CXCR4 in patients with primary and recurrent breast carcinoma

1. Technische Universität München, Clinic of Nuclear Medicine, Klinikum Rechts der Isar

2. Technische Universität München, Institute of Pathology

3. Technische Universität München, III Medical Department, Klinikum Rechts der Isar

4. Technische Universität München, Clinic of Gynecology, Klinikum Rechts der Isar

5. Technische Universität München, Pharmaceutical Radiochemistry

Correspondence to:
Tibor Vag
Tel: +49894140 2962




CXCR4 is a chemokine receptor frequently overexpressed in invasive breast cancer that has been shown to play a major role in signaling pathways involved in metastasis. The aim of this retrospective analysis was to assess the diagnostic performance of CXCR4-directed PET imaging in patients with breast cancer using the recently introduced CXCR4-targeted PET probe 68Ga-Pentixafor.


Thirteen patients with first diagnosis of breast cancer, four patients with recurrent disease after primary breast cancer, and one patient with axillary lymph node metastasis of unknown primary underwent CXCR4-targeted PET imaging using 68Ga-Pentixafor. Maximum standardized uptake values (SUVmax) and tumor-to-background (T/B) ratios of tumor lesions were measured and compared with pathological prognostic factors and molecular subtypes. 18F-FDG PET/CT images were available in 8/18 cases and were compared semi-quantitatively. Comparison with CXCR4 expression determined by immunohistochemistry was performed in 7/18 patients.

Nine of 13 primary breast cancers were visually detectable on 68Ga-Pentixafor PET images (mean SUVmax of 3.0). The visually undetectable lesions included both cases of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) and two cases of invasive carcinoma of no special type (NST) without any hormone receptor and HER2 expression (triple negative). Metastases of recurrent breast cancer and unknown primary cancer were visually detectable in all five cases, exhibiting a mean SUVmax of 3.5. 18F-FDG PET demonstrated higher SUVmax in all patients compared to 68Ga-Pentixafor PET. A correlation between SUVmax obtained from 68Ga-Pentixafor PET and prognostic factors including estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status, proliferation index, tumor grade, or molecular subtypes was not observed.


CXCR4-directed PET imaging in patients with primary and recurrent breast cancer is feasible; however, tumor detectability is significantly lower compared to 18F-FDG PET. Moreover, we did not find any correlation between aforementioned prognostic factors of breast cancer and CXCR4-targeted tracer accumulation. Based on these results in a small patient cohort, CXCR4-targeted PET imaging does not seem to be suitable as a general diagnostic tool for imaging of breast cancer. Future CXCR4 imaging studies should investigate whether this modality might be useful in more specific applications, e.g., in therapeutic approaches especially under the view of current developments in targeted immune cell and immune checkpoint inhibitory therapy.

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  • Accepted: Aug 19, 2018
  • Online: Sep 6, 2018

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