A Novel Translational PET Imaging Approach to Quantifying Distal Tumor Immune Activation After Targeted Radiation Therapy and Checkpoint Blockade

Yujun Zhang, Jessy S. Deshane, Eddy S. Yang, Benjamin Larimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aimed to provide a novel noninvasive method to quantify abscopal immune activation and predict combinational treatment response using [68Ga]-NOTA-GZP positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Methods and Materials: 4T1 breast cancer cells were implanted bilaterally in the mammary fat pad of Balb/c mice and Lewis's lung cancer cells (LLC) were implanted bilaterally on the shoulders of C57/Bl6 mice. One of the tumors received a single fraction of 12 Gy irradiation followed by combination of concurrent PD-1 and CTLA-4 inhibitors or controls. Tumor growth of the irradiated and nonirradiated tumors was measured and compared with 12 Gy irradiation only, checkpoint inhibitor only, and no treatment control group. Changes in granzyme B activity were assessed with [68Ga]-NOTA-GZP PET imaging from baseline and every 3 days until day 9. Results: In the 4T1 model, concurrent treatment with dual checkpoint inhibitors and radiation resulted in reduction of the irradiated tumor volume at day 30. At this same time point, the nonirradiated tumor volume for combination treatment decreased significantly, consistent with abscopal immune activation. Similarly, in the LLC model, concurrent treatment inhibited tumor growth on the nonirradiated tumor at day 15. On day 9, granzyme B PET signal in both 4T1 and LLC models was significantly higher in the nonirradiated tumors that responded to concurrent treatment compared with subsequent nonresponding tumors. A similar lack of granzyme B signal was observed in the nonirradiated tumors from mice that received radiation or checkpoint inhibitors only and control tumors. Receiver operating characteristic analysis identified a PET threshold of 1.505 and 1.233 on day 9 that predicted treatment response in 4T1 and LLC models, respectively. Conclusions: [68Ga]-NOTA-GZP PET imaging was able to noninvasively predict abscopal immune activation before subsequent tumor volume changes after combination treatment. It provides a potential translational paradigm for investigating distal immune activation postradiation in a clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1227
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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