Theranostics 2017; 7(4):805-813. doi:10.7150/thno.17117

Research Paper

Preclinical Melanoma Imaging with 68Ga-Labeled α-Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone Derivatives Using PET

Chengcheng Zhang1, Zhengxing Zhang1, Kuo-Shyan Lin1,2, Jinhe Pan1, Iulia Dude1, Navjit Hundal-Jabal1, Nadine Colpo1, François Bénard1,2,✉

1. Department of Molecular Oncology, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC, Canada
2. Department of Radiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada


It is estimated that melanoma accounted for 76,380 new cases and 10,130 deaths in the United States in 2016. The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is highly expressed in the vast majority of melanomas, which makes it an attractive target for molecular imaging and radionuclide therapy. Lactam bridge-cyclized α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (Ac-Nle4-cyclo[Asp5-His-D-Phe7-Arg-Trp-Lys10]-NH2, or Nle-CycMSHhex) analogues have been successfully developed and studied for MC1R-targeted imaging, predominantly with single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). The goal of this study was to design and evaluate novel peptides for melanoma imaging with positron emission tomography (PET). We designed and synthesized three peptides, DOTA-PEG2-Nle-CycMSHhex (CCZ01047), DOTA-4-amino-(1-carboxymethyl) piperidine (Pip)-Nle-CycMSHhex (CCZ01048), and DOTA-Pip-Pip-Nle-CycMSHhex (CCZ01056). All three peptides exhibited high binding affinity to MC1R with sub-nanomolar Ki values, rapid internalization into B16F10 melanoma cells and high in vivo stability with more than 93% remaining intact at 15 min post-injection (p.i.) in blood plasma. All three 68Ga-labeled tracers produced high contrast PET images in C57BL/6J mice bearing B16F10 tumors, and their respective tumor uptakes were 8.0 ± 3.0, 12.3 ± 3.3, and 6.5 ± 1.4 %ID/g at 1 h p.i. Minimal normal organ activity was observed at 1 h p.i., except for kidneys (5.1 ± 1.4, 4.7 ± 0.5, and 6.2 ± 2.0 %ID/g, respectively), and thyroid (4.1 ± 0.6 %ID/g for CCZ01047 and 2.4 ± 0.6 %ID/g for CCZ01048). Due to high accumulation at tumor sites and rapid background clearance of 68Ga-CCZ01048, we further evaluated it at 2 h p.i., and a tumor uptake of 21.9 ± 4.6 %ID/g was observed, with background activity further decreased. Exceptional image contrast was also achieved, i.e. tumor-to-blood, tumor-to-muscle, tumor-to-bone and tumor-to-kidney ratios were 96.4 ± 13.9, 210.9 ± 20.9, 39.6 ± 11.9 and 4.0 ± 0.9, respectively. A blocking study was also performed by co-injection of excess amount of non-radioactive Ga-coupled of CCZ01048, which confirmed that the tumor uptake was MC1R mediated. In conclusion, the introduction of a cationic Pip linker to Nle-CycMSHhex, CCZ01048, not only improved tumor uptake, but also generated high tumor-to-normal tissue contrast with PET imaging in a preclinical melanoma model. Therefore, CCZ01048 is a promising candidate for PET imaging of melanoma, and potentially as a theranostic agent for radionuclide therapy of melanoma when labeled with α or β emitters.

Keywords: Melanocortin 1 receptor, Melanoma, α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, PET imaging, Ga-68.

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How to cite this article:
Zhang C, Zhang Z, Lin KS, Pan J, Dude I, Hundal-Jabal N, Colpo N, Bénard F. Preclinical Melanoma Imaging with 68Ga-Labeled α-Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone Derivatives Using PET. Theranostics 2017; 7(4):805-813. doi:10.7150/thno.17117. Available from