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Title: Atherosclerotic inflammation imaging using somatostatin receptor-2 positron emission tomography
Author: Tarkin, Jason Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 8670
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Systemic inflammatory networks and local signaling cascades trigger culprit pathogenic mechanisms relating clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors to atherosclerotic plaque progression and rupture. Imaging vascular inflammation affords a valuable marker of atherosclerotic disease activity to reveal important mechanistic insights for CVD research, to quantify early anti-inflammatory effects of new atherosclerosis drugs, and, ultimately, to help improve CVD risk prediction. While carotid, aortic, and peripheral arterial inflammation can be measured by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET-computed tomography (CT), as a glucose analog, high 18F-FDG signal spillover owing to physiological myocardial muscle metabolism prevents reliable coronary interpretation. Lack of cell specificity, and the influence of hypoxia on 18F-FDG uptake within macrophages and other plaque cells, are further limitations that drive the search for an alternative PET tracer for imaging inflammation in atherosclerosis. Up-regulation of the G-protein coupled receptor somatostatin receptor subtype-2 (SST2) occurs on the cell surface of activated macrophages. The central hypothesis tested in this thesis is that vascular SST2 PET imaging using 68Ga-DOTATATE might offer a more accurate marker of macrophage inflammation than 18F-FDG, with superior coronary imaging and therefore better power to discriminate high-risk vs. low-risk atherosclerotic lesions. Comprehensive molecular, histological and clinical evaluation of this experimental CVD imaging biomarker was undertaken, including a prospective clinical study with head-to-head comparison to 18F-FDG in coronary, carotid, and aortic vasculature. In vitro data showed that (i) target SSTR2 gene expression occurred in “pro-inflammatory” M1 macrophages, (ii) specific 68Ga-DOTATATE ligand binding to SST2 receptors occurred in CD68-positive macrophage-rich carotid plaque regions, and (iii) and carotid SSTR2 mRNA was highly correlated with both the pan-macrophage marker CD68 and in vivo 68Ga-DOTATATE PET signals. In clinical imaging, increased 68Ga-DOTATATE inflammatory signals correctly identified culprit vs. non-culprit arteries in patients with acute coronary syndrome and transient ischemic attack/stroke. 68Ga-DOTATATE also demonstrated good diagnostic accuracy for high-risk coronary CT features, and strong correlations with clinical CVD risk factors and 18F-FDG-defined vascular inflammation. While 18F-FDG also differentiated culprit vs. non-culprit carotid and high-risk coronary arteries, myocardial 18F-FDG overspill rendered coronary scans uninterpretable in most patients. In contrast, 68Ga-DOTATATE allowed unimpeded coronary interpretation in all patients. Findings of this thesis provide compelling evidence, from gene, to cell, to plaque, to patient, that SST2 PET imaging using 68Ga-DOTATATE provides a quantifiable marker of macrophage-related atherosclerotic inflammation and disease activity. Further studies are needed to establish whether 68Ga-DOTATATE PET can improve CVD risk prediction when added to current clinical methods, or offer a novel imaging platform to rapidly test the anti-inflammatory capacity of emerging atherosclerosis drugs. Broader translational applications of 68Ga-DOTATATE PET include possible use in diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring of vasculitis, endocarditis, myocarditis, and other manifestations of cardiovascular inflammation.
Supervisor: Rudd, James Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: atherosclerosis ; inflammation ; somatostatin receptor-2 ; positron emission tomography