Direct Comparison of the Tau PET Tracers 18F-Flortaucipir and 18F-MK-6240 in Human Subjects

J Nucl Med. 2022 Jan;63(1):108-116. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.120.254961. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Tau PET tracers exhibit varying levels of specific signal and distinct off-target binding patterns that are more diverse than amyloid PET tracers. This study compared 2 frequently used tau PET tracers, 18F-flortaucipir and 18F-MK-6240, in the same subjects. Methods:18F-flortaucipir and 18F-MK-6240 scans were collected within 2 mo in 15 elderly subjects varying in clinical diagnosis and cognition. FreeSurfer, version 5.3, was applied to 3-T MR images to segment Braak pathologic regions (I-VI) for PET analyses. Off-target binding was assessed in the choroid plexus, meninges, and striatum. SUV ratio (SUVR) outcomes were determined over 80-100 min (18F-flortaucipir) or 70-90 min (18F-MK-6240) normalized to cerebellar gray matter. Masked visual interpretation of images was performed by 5 raters for both the medial temporal lobe and the neocortex, and an overall (majority) rating was determined. Results: Overall visual ratings showed complete concordance between radiotracers for both the medial temporal lobe and the neocortex. SUVR outcomes were highly correlated (r2 > 0.92; P ≪ 0.001) for all Braak regions except Braak II. The dynamic range of SUVRs in target regions was approximately 2-fold higher for 18F-MK-6240 than for 18F-flortaucipir. Cerebellar SUVs were similar for 18F-MK-6240 and 18F-flortaucipir, suggesting that differences in SUVRs are driven by specific signals. Apparent off-target binding was observed often in the striatum and choroid plexus with 18F-flortaucipir and most often in the meninges with 18F-MK-6240. Conclusion: Both 18F-MK-6240 and 18F-flortaucipir are capable of quantifying signal in a common set of brain regions that develop tau pathology in Alzheimer disease; these tracers perform equally well in visual interpretations. Each also shows distinct patterns of apparent off-target binding. 18F-MK-6240 showed a greater dynamic range in SUVR estimates, which may be an advantage in detecting early tau pathology or in performing longitudinal studies to detect small interval changes.

Keywords: 18F-MK-6240; 18F-flortaucipir; Alzheimer disease; PET; tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carbolines*


  • Carbolines
  • 7-(6-fluoropyridin-3-yl)-5H-pyrido(4,3-b)indole