Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator Receptor (uPAR) Expression and [64Cu]Cu-DOTA-AE105 uPAR-PET/CT in Patient-Derived Xenograft Models of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Mads Lawaetz*, Tina Binderup, Anders Christensen, Karina Juhl, Giedrius Lelkaitis, Eva Lykke, Line Knudsen, Christian von Buchwald, Andreas Kjaer

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


PURPOSE: [64Cu]Cu-DOTA-AE105 urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR)-PET/CT is a novel and promising imaging modality for cancer visualization, although it has not been tested in head and neck cancer patients nor in preclinical models that closely resemble these heterogenous tumors, i.e., patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models. The aim of the present study was to establish and validate oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) PDX models and to evaluate [64Cu]Cu-uPAR-PET/CT for tumor imaging in these models.

PROCEDURES: PDX flank tumor models were established by engrafting tumor tissue from three patients with locally advanced OSCC into immunodeficient mice. [64Cu]Cu-DOTA-AE105 was injected in passage 2 (P2) mice, and [64Cu]Cu-uPAR-PET/CT was performed 1 h and 24 h after injection. After the last PET scan, all animals were euthanized, and tumors dissected for autoradiography and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining.

RESULTS: Three PDX models were established, and all of them showed histological stability and unchanged heterogenicity, uPAR expression, and Ki67 expression through passages. A significant correlation between uPAR expression and tumor growth was found. All tumors of all models (n=29) showed tumor uptake of [64Cu]Cu-DOTA-AE105. There was a clear visual concordance between the distribution of uPAR expression (IHC) and [64Cu]Cu-DOTA-AE105 uptake pattern in tumor tissue (autoradiography). No significant correlation was found between IHC (H-score) and PET-signal (SUVmax) (r=0.34; p=0.07).

CONCLUSIONS: OSCC PDX models in early passages histologically mimic donor tumors and could serve as a valuable platform for the development of uPAR-targeted imaging and therapeutic modalities. Furthermore, [64Cu]Cu-uPAR-PET/CT showed target- and tumor-specific uptake in OSCC PDX models demonstrating the diagnostic potential of this modality for OSCC patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Imaging and Biology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1034-1044
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/diagnostic imaging
  • Copper Radioisotopes
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mouth Neoplasms/diagnostic imaging
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator/metabolism
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck/diagnostic imaging
  • Urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor
  • Oral squamous cell carcinoma
  • PET/CT
  • Cu-DOTA-AE105
  • Patient-derived xenograft models


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