Auger electron-emitters increasingly attract attention as potential radionuclides for molecular radionuclide therapy in oncology. The radionuclide technetium-99m is widely used for imaging; however, its potential as a therapeutic radionuclide has not yet been fully assessed. We used MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells engineered to express the human sodium iodide symporter-green fluorescent protein fusion reporter (hNIS-GFP; MDA-MB-231.hNIS-GFP) as a model for controlled cellular radionuclide uptake. Uptake, efflux, and subcellular location of the NIS radiotracer [99mTc]TcO4- were characterised to calculate the nuclear-absorbed dose using Medical Internal Radiation Dose formalism. Radiotoxicity was determined using clonogenic and γ-H2AX assays. The daughter radionuclide technetium-99 or external beam irradiation therapy (EBRT) served as controls. [99mTc]TcO4- in vivo biodistribution in MDA-MB-231.hNIS-GFP tumour-bearing mice was determined by imaging and complemented by ex vivo tissue radioactivity analysis. [99mTc]TcO4- resulted in substantial DNA damage and reduction in the survival fraction (SF) following 24 h incubation in hNIS-expressing cells only. We found that 24,430 decays/cell (30 mBq/cell) were required to achieve SF0.37 (95%-confidence interval = [SF0.31; SF0.43]). Different approaches for determining the subcellular localisation of [99mTc]TcO4- led to SF0.37 nuclear-absorbed doses ranging from 0.33 to 11.7 Gy. In comparison, EBRT of MDA-MB-231.hNIS-GFP cells resulted in an SF0.37 of 2.59 Gy. In vivo retention of [99mTc]TcO4- after 24 h remained high at 28.0% ± 4.5% of the administered activity/gram tissue in MDA-MB-231.hNIS-GFP tumours. [99mTc]TcO4- caused DNA damage and reduced clonogenicity in this model, but only when the radioisotope was taken up into the cells. This data guides the safe use of technetium-99m during imaging and potential future therapeutic applications.
Keywords: auger electron therapy; dosimetry; molecular radionuclide therapy; radiobiology; sodium iodide symporter; technetium; triple-negative breast cancer cells.