Galectin expression detected by 68Ga-galectracer PET as a predictive biomarker of radiotherapy resistance

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2022 Jul;49(8):2746-2760. doi: 10.1007/s00259-022-05711-1. Epub 2022 Feb 2.


Purpose: Hypoxia is a hallmark of solid tumors that is related to radiotherapy resistance. As galectin members, such as galectin-1 and galectin-3, are associated with tumor hypoxia, herein we aimed to investigate whether positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of galectin expression can be employed to effectively pinpoint tumor hypoxia, and to predict radiotherapy resistance.

Methods: We synthesized a galectin-targeting radiotracer, designated 68Ga-galectracer, by radiolabeling a thiodigalactoside derivative. The properties of 68Ga-galectracer for PET imaging of tumor hypoxia were characterized in three tumor hypoxia mouse models. Additionally, preliminary PET/CT was performed in two patients with lung cancer to investigate the potential application of 68Ga-galectracer for clinical imaging.

Results: High-contrast imaging was achieved in the murine acute hypoxia tumor model, A549 natural hypoxia model, and sorafenib treatment-induced hypoxic 4T1 tumor model by PET using 68Ga-galectracer. In fact, 68Ga-galectracer exhibited superior hypoxia detection to that of 18F-misonidazole in the 4T1 tumors. Moreover, tumors with high galectin expression levels, as detected by 68Ga-galectracer PET, exhibited significantly lower responses to subsequent radiotherapy compared to those with low galectin expression levels. In patients with lung cancer, PET imaging using 68Ga-galectracer provided data that were complementary to that of the glucose metabolic PET radiotracer 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose.

Conclusion: 68Ga-galectracer is a promising radiotracer for PET-based imaging of tumor hypoxia in vivo. Thus, hypoxia PET with 68Ga-galectracer could provide a noninvasive approach to proactively predict radiotherapy efficacy.

Trial registration: (ChiCTR2000029522). Registered 03 February 2020.

Keywords: Galectin; Molecular imaging; Positron emission tomography; Radiotherapy; Tumor hypoxia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Gallium Radioisotopes*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Gallium Radioisotopes