Fluorinated amino acids for tumour imaging with positron emission tomography
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The currently preferred radiopharmaceutical for positron emission tomography (PET) in oncology is 2-[18F]fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG). Increased accumulation of this deoxyglucose analogue in tumour cells is based on elevated glucose metabolism by tumour cells and subsequent trapping in the cells. In the search for new PET tracers, amino acids have been widely studied. A new amino acid tracer should preferably have similar high uptake in tumour cells but low non-specific uptake in normal tissues and any pathology other than tumour. In recent years, several amino acids have been labelled with either gamma radiation-emitting radionuclides or positron-emitting radionuclides, the most commonly used being carbon-11. However, the longer half-life of fluorine-18 matches better with the relatively slow process of protein synthesis and also facilitates shipping of the radiolabelled amino acids to hospitals without an on-site cyclotron or dedicated radiochemistry laboratory. The number of fluorinated amino acids under investigation is increasing, and one of the major points of discussion is the underlying mechanism of the tumour visualisation. While it has been shown that some amino acids can be used to measure the protein synthesis rate, others are used with the sole aim of measuring the rate of uptake into the cell. The differences between measuring amino acid transport (rate) and protein synthesis rate with 18F-labelled amino acids are discussed.
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