Spatiotemporal PET Imaging Reveals Differences in CAR-T Tumor Retention in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Models

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Chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy (CAR-T) has been rolled out as a new treatment for hematological malignancies. For solid tumor treatment, CAR-T has been disappointing so far. Challenges include the quantification of CAR-T trafficking, expansion and retention in tumors, activity at target sites, toxicities, and long-term CAR-T survival. Non-invasive serial in vivo imaging of CAR-T using reporter genes can address several of these challenges. For clinical use, a non-immunogenic reporter that is detectable with exquisite sensitivity by positron emission tomography (PET) using a clinically available non-toxic radiotracer would be beneficial. Here, we employed the human sodium iodide symporter to non-invasively quantify tumor retention of pan-ErbB family targeted CAR-T by PET. We generated and characterized traceable CAR T cells and examined potential negative effects of radionuclide reporter use. We applied our platform to two different triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) models and unexpectedly observed pronounced differences in CAR-T tumor retention by PET/CT (computed tomography) and confirmed data ex vivo. CAR-T tumor retention inversely correlated with immune checkpoint expression in the TNBC models. Our platform enables highly sensitive non-invasive PET tracking of CAR-T thereby addressing a fundamental unmet need in CAR-T development and offering to provide missing information needed for future clinical CAR-T imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2271-2285
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular therapy : the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy
Issue number10
Early online date24 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • CAR
  • cell tracking
  • chimeric antigen receptor
  • immune checkpoint
  • immunotherapy
  • PET imaging
  • reporter gene
  • triple-negative breast cancer
  • tumour retention


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