Molecular Imaging and Biology

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 300–308 | Cite as

Phage Display Selection, In Vitro Characterization, and Correlative PET Imaging of a Novel HER3 Peptide

  • Benjamin M. LarimerEmail author
  • Nicholas Phelan
  • Eric Wehrenberg-Klee
  • Umar MahmoodEmail author
Research Article



HER3 (ERBB3) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that is implicated in treatment resistance across multiple cancers, including those of the breast, lung, and prostate. Overexpression of HER3 following targeted therapy can occur rapidly and heterogeneously both within a single lesion and across sites of metastasis, making protein quantification by biopsy highly challenging. A global, non-invasive methodology such as positron emission tomography (PET) imaging can permit serial quantification of HER3, providing a useful approach to monitor HER3 expression across the entire tumor burden both prior to and following treatment. PET imaging of HER3 expression may permit a more personalized approach to targeted therapy by allowing for detection of HER3-mediated resistance, in addition to informing clinical trial patient selection for novel therapies targeting HER3.


Phage display selection targeting the HER3 extracellular domain was performed in order to develop a peptide with optimal blood clearance and highly accurate HER3 quantification.


The selection converged to a consensus peptide sequence that was subsequently found to bind HER3 with an affinity of 270 ± 151 nM. The peptide, termed HER3P1, was bound with high selectivity to HER3 over other similar receptor tyrosine kinases such as EGFR and HER2. Furthermore, HER3P1 was able to distinguish between high and low HER3-expressing cells in vitro. The peptide was radiolabeled with Ga-68 and demonstrated to specifically bind HER3 by in vivo PET imaging. Uptake of [68Ga]HER3P1 was highly specific for HER3-positive tumors, with tumor-to-background ratios ranging from 1.59–3.32, compared to those of HER3-negative tumors, ranging from 0.84–0.93. The uptake of [68Ga]HER3P1 also demonstrated high (P < 0.001) correlation with protein expression as quantified by Western blot and confirmed by biodistribution.


HER3P1 accurately quantifies expression of HER3 by PET imaging and has potential utility as a clinical imaging agent.

Key words

HER3 PET Phage display Peptide 



We would like to thank Emily Bloch, Sarah Nesti, and Catharina Dekker for technical assistance and manuscript preparation. Funding provided by a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Postdoctoral Training Award W81XWH-16-1-0447 and a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Synergistic Idea Development Award W81XWH-14-1-0406.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© World Molecular Imaging Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of RadiologyMassachusetts General HospitalCharlestownUSA

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