Aim: Targeting the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is a potential means of overcoming chemoresistance in ovarian cancer. We investigated the capability of (18)F-fluororodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) small-animal positron emission tomography (SA-PET) to predict the effects of a dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor (BEZ-235) in a cisplatin-resistant ovarian cancer model.
Methods: In a first experiment, nude rats bearing subcutaneous SKOV3 tumors received BEZ-235 for 3 days given alone or after paclitaxel and were compared to controls (either untreated or that were given the excipients of paclitaxel and BEZ-235). SA-PET was performed at baseline, on day 3, and day 7. In a second experiment aiming at further exploring the kinetics of (18)F-FDG tumor uptake during the first 48 hours following drug cessation, untreated controls were compared to rats receiving BEZ-235, which were imaged at baseline, on day 3, on day 4, and on day 5. SA-PET results were compared to cell proliferation assessment (Ki-67), PI3K/mTOR downstream target expression studies (pAKT and phospho-eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1), and apoptosis evaluation (cleaved caspase-3).
Results: In the first experiment, BEZ-235, compared to untreated controls, induced a marked decrease in (18)F-FDG uptake on day 3, which was correlated to a significant decrease in cell proliferation and to a significant PI3K/mTOR pathway inhibition. No tumor necrosis or apoptosis occurred. Four days following treatment cessation, tumor recovery (in terms of PI3K/mTOR inhibition and cell proliferation) occurred and was identified by (18)F-FDG SA-PET. Paclitaxel plus BEZ-235 showed results similar to BEZ-235 alone. In the second experiment, PI3K/mTOR pathways exhibited partial recovery as early as 24 hours following treatment cessation, but both (18)F-FDG SA-PET and cell proliferation remained unchanged.
Conclusions: (18)F-FDG SA-PET is a surrogate marker of target inhibition during treatment with BEZ-235 and predicts tumor recovery 4 days after drug withdrawal, but not during the first 48 hours following drug cessation, when a lag between PI3K/mTOR pathway recovery and metabolic recovery is observed. (18)F-FDG SA-PET could be used for therapy monitoring of PI3K/mTOR inhibitors, but our results also raise questions regarding the potential impact of the delay between PET imaging and the last drug intake on the accuracy of FDG imaging.