Mutations in the NRF2-KEAP1 pathway are common in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and confer broad-spectrum therapeutic resistance, leading to poor outcomes. The cystine/glutamate antiporter, system xc-, is one of the >200 cytoprotective proteins controlled by NRF2, which can be non-invasively imaged by (S)-4-(3-18F-fluoropropyl)-l-glutamate ([18F]FSPG) positron emission tomography (PET). Through genetic and pharmacologic manipulation, we show that [18F]FSPG provides a sensitive and specific marker of NRF2 activation in advanced preclinical models of NSCLC. We validate imaging readouts with metabolomic measurements of system xc- activity and their coupling to intracellular glutathione concentration. A redox gene signature was measured in patients from the TRACERx 421 cohort, suggesting an opportunity for patient stratification prior to imaging. Furthermore, we reveal that system xc- is a metabolic vulnerability that can be therapeutically targeted for sustained tumour growth suppression in aggressive NSCLC. Our results establish [18F]FSPG as predictive marker of therapy resistance in NSCLC and provide the basis for the clinical evaluation of both imaging and therapeutic agents that target this important antioxidant pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2023


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