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Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is commonly performed in cancers that metastasise via the lymphatic system. It involves excision and histology of sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) and presents two main challenges: (i) sensitive whole-body localisation of SLNs, and (ii) lack of pre-operative knowledge of their metastatic status, resulting in a high number (>70%) of healthy SLN excisions. To improve SLNB, whole-body imaging could improve detection and potentially prevent unnecessary surgery by identifying healthy and metastatic SLNs. In this context, radiolabelled SPIOs and PET-MRI could find applications to locate SLNs with high sensitivity at the whole-body level (using PET) and guide high-resolution MRI to evaluate their metastatic status. Here we evaluate this approach by synthesising a GMP-compatible 68Ga-SPIO (68Ga-Sienna+) followed by PET-MR imaging and histology studies in a metastatic breast cancer mouse model. Methods. A clinically approved SPIO for SLN localisation (Sienna+) was radiolabelled with 68Ga without a chelator. Radiochemical stability was tested in human serum. In vitro cell uptake was compared between 3E.Δ.NT breast cancer cells, expressing the hNIS reporter gene, and macrophage cell lines (J774A.1; RAW264.7.GFP). NSG-mice were inoculated with 3E.Δ.NT cells. Left axillary SLN metastasis was monitored by hNIS/SPECT-CT and compared to the healthy right axillary SLN. 68Ga-Sienna+ was injected into front paws and followed by PET-MRI. Imaging results were confirmed by histology. Results.68Ga-Sienna+ was produced in high radiochemical purity (>93%) without the need for purification and was stable in vitro. In vitro uptake of 68Ga-Sienna+ in macrophage cells (J774A.1) was significantly higher (12 ± 1%) than in cancer cells (2.0 ± 0.1%; P < 0.001). SPECT-CT confirmed metastasis in the left axillary SLNs of tumour mice. In PET, significantly higher 68Ga-Sienna+ uptake was measured in healthy axillary SLNs (2.2 ± 0.9 %ID/mL), than in metastatic SLNs (1.1 ± 0.2 %ID/mL; P = 0.006). In MRI, 68Ga-Sienna+ uptake in healthy SLNs was observed by decreased MR signal in T2/T2*-weighted sequences, whereas fully metastatic SLNs appeared unchanged. Conclusion.68Ga-Sienna+ in combination with PET-MRI can locate and distinguish healthy from metastatic SLNs and could be a useful preoperative imaging tool to guide SLN biopsy and prevent unnecessary excisions.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





255 - 265


68Ga, PET-MRI, SPIO, sentinel lymph node biopsy