Imaging tumor burden in the brain with 89Zr-transferrin

Michael J. Evans, Jason P. Holland, Samuel L. Rice, Michael G. Doran, Sarah M. Cheal, Carl Campos, Sean D. Carlin, Ingo K. Mellinghoff, Charles L. Sawyers, Jason S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


A noninvasive technology that indiscriminately detects tumor tissue in the brain could substantially enhance the management of primary or metastatic brain tumors. Although the documented molecular heterogeneity of diseases that initiate or eventually deposit in the brain may preclude identifying a single smoking-gun molecular biomarker, many classes of brain tumors are generally avid for transferrin. Therefore, we reasoned that applying a radiolabeled derivative of transferrin (89Zr-labeled transferrin) may be an effective strategy to more thoroughly identify tumor tissue in the brain, regardless of the tumor's genetic background. Methods: Transferrin was radiolabeled with 89Zr, and its properties with respect to human models of glioblastoma multiforme were studied in vivo. Results: In this report, we show proof of concept that 89Zr-labeled transferrin (89Zr-transferrin) localizes to genetically diverse models of glioblastoma multiforme in vivo. Moreover, we demonstrate that 89Zr-transferrin can detect an orthotopic lesion with exceptional contrast. Finally, the tumor-to-brain contrast conferred by 89Zr-transferrin vastly exceeded that observed with 18F-FDG, currently the most widely used radiotracer to assess tumor burden in the brain. Conclusion: The results from this study suggest that 89Zr-transferrin could be a broadly applicable tool for identifying and monitoring tumors in the brain, with realistic potential for near-term clinical translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-95
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Glioma
  • Molecular imaging
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Transferrin
  • Zr

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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