In vivo characterization and quantification of neurofibrillary tau PET radioligand [18F]MK-6240 in humans from Alzheimer's disease dementia to young controls

Betthauser TJ, Cody KA, Zammit MD, Murali D, Converse AK, Barnhart TE, Stone CK, Rowley HA, Johnson SC, Christian BT.

J Nucl Med. 2018 May 18. pii: jnumed.118.209650. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.118.209650. [Epub ahead of print]


Tau positron emission tomography (PET) imaging has potential for elucidating changes in the deposition of neuropathological tau aggregates that are occurring during the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This work investigates in vivo kinetics, quantification strategies and imaging characteristics of a novel tau PET radioligand [18F]MK-6240 in humans. Methods: Fifty-one individuals ranging from cognitively normal young controls to persons with dementia underwent T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and [11C]PiB and [18F]MK-6240 PET imaging. PET data were coregistered to the MRI and time-activity curves were extracted from regions of interest to assess [18F]MK-6240 kinetics. The pons and inferior cerebellum were investigated as potential reference regions. Reference tissue methods (Logan graphical analysis (LGA) and multilinear reference tissue method (MRTM2)) were investigated for quantification of [18F]MK-6240 distribution volume ratios (DVRs) in a subset of nineteen participants. Stability of DVR methods was evaluated using truncated scan durations. Standard uptake value ratio (SUVR) estimates were compared to DVR estimates to determine the optimal timing window for SUVR analysis. Parametric SUVR images were used to identify regions of potential off-target binding and to compare binding patterns with neurofibrillary tau staging established in neuropathology literature. Results: Standard uptake values in the pons and the inferior cerebellum indicated consistent clearance across all 51 subjects. LGA and MRTM2 DVR estimates were similar, with LGA slightly underestimating DVR compared to MRTM2. DVR estimates remained stable when truncating the scan duration to 60 minutes. SUVR determined 70-90 minutes post-injection of [18F]MK-6240 indicated linearity near unity when compared to DVR estimates and minimized potential spill-in from uptake outside of the brain. [18F]MK-6240 binding patterns in target regions were consistent with neuropathological neurofibrillary tau staging. Off-target binding regions included the ethmoid sinus, clivus, meninges, substantia nigra, but not the basal ganglia or choroid plexus. Conclusions: [18F]MK-6240 is a promising PET radioligand for in vivo imaging of neurofibrillary tau aggregates in AD with minimal off-target binding in the human brain.

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