Background: In Hodgkin's lymphoma, F-18-fluoro-deoxy-d-glucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) is used for staging and response evaluation after chemotherapy. However, drug-mediated downregulation of glucose uptake in viable Hodgkin's lymphoma cells might limit the use of FDG-PET.
Methods: We analyzed the effect of etoposide on cell viability and uptake of F-18-fluoro-deoxy-D-glucose or the glucose analog 2-[N-(7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazol-4-yl)amino]-2-deoxyglucose (2-NBDG) in vitro.
Results: Etoposide induced a dose-dependent cytotoxicity in HDLM-2 cells which was significantly correlated with reduced FDG uptake. However, it also significantly increased the portion of viable cells which did not take up 2-NBDG. Interestingly, etoposide-induced cytotoxicity was mainly mediated via caspase-dependent mechanisms, whereas the cell death induced by deprivation of glucose was mediated via caspase-independent mechanisms.
Conclusion: Etoposide-mediated reduction of glucose uptake by Hodgkin's lymphoma cells is mainly caused by cell death. In a small fraction of viable cells, etoposide might downregulate glucose transporters and/or hexokinase activity and by that inhibit glucose uptake. This, however, might not lead to false-negative results of response evaluation in Hodgkin's lymphoma patients after chemotherapy, because inhibition of glucose uptake itself seems to be a strong inducer of cell death. Altogether, this study provides important in vitro evidence to clarify the mechanisms by which FDG-PET monitors the effect of anti-cancer treatment in Hodgkin's lymphoma patients.