First in man study of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate PET: a novel macrophage imaging technique to visualize rheumatoid arthritis

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 23;10(1):1047. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57841-x.


Non-invasive imaging of arthritis activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients using macrophage PET holds promise for early diagnosis and therapeutic response monitoring. Previously obtained results with macrophage tracer (R)-[11C]PK11195 were encouraging, but the imaging signal could be further improved by reduction of background uptake. Recently, the novel macrophage tracer [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate was developed. This tracer showed excellent targeting of the folate receptor β on activated macrophages in synovial tissue in a preclinical arthritic rat model. We performed three substudies to investigate the biodistribution, potential for imaging arthritis and kinetic properties of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate in RA patients. Firstly, biodistribution demonstrated fast clearance of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate from heart and blood vessels and no dose limiting uptake in organs. Secondly, [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate showed uptake in arthritic joints with significantly lower background and hence significantly higher target-to-background ratios as compared to reference macrophage tracer (R)-[11C]PK11195. Lastly, dynamic scanning demonstrated fast tracer uptake in affected joints, reaching a plateau after 1 minute, co-existing with a rapid blood clearance. In conclusion, this first in man study demonstrates the potential of [18F]fluoro-PEG-folate to image arthritis activity in RA with favourable imaging characteristics of rapid clearance and low background uptake, that allow for detection of inflammatory activity in the whole body.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics
  • Folate Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Folic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Folic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Polyethylene Glycols / pharmacokinetics*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Synovial Membrane / diagnostic imaging
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism


  • FOLR2 protein, human
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Folate Receptor 2
  • poly(ethylene glycol)-folate
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Folic Acid