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Quantitative hormone therapy follow-up in an ER+/ERαKD mouse tumor model using FDG and [11C]-methionine PET imaging

Michel Paquette1, Sébastien Tremblay1, Francois Bénard2 and Roger Lecomte1*

Author Affiliations

1 Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center, Department of Nuclear Medicine & Radiobiology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, 3001, 12th Avenue N., Sherbrooke, Québec, J1H 5N4, Canada

2 BC Cancer Agency Research Center, Department of Radiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Z 1L8, Canada

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EJNMMI Research 2012, 2:61  doi:10.1186/2191-219X-2-61

Published: 9 November 2012



The estrogen receptor α (ERα) is known to play an important role in the modulation of tumor response to hormone therapy. In this work, the effect of different hormone therapies on tumors having different ERα expression levels was followed up in vivo in a mouse model by PET imaging using 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose (FDG) and [11C]-methionine ([11C]-MET). A new model of MC7-L1 ERα-knockdown (ERαKD) tumor cell lines was designed as a negative estrogen receptor control to follow up the effects of changes in ERα expression on the early metabolic tumor response to different hormone therapies.


MC7-L1 (ER+) and MC7-L1 ERα-knockdown cell lines were implanted subcutaneously in Balb/c mice and allowed to grow up to 4 mm in diameter. Animals were separated into 4 groups (n = 4 or 5) and treated with a pure antiestrogen (fulvestrant), an aromatase inhibitor (letrozole), a selective estrogen receptor modulator (tamoxifen), or not treated (control). Tumor metabolic activity was assessed by PET imaging with FDG and [11C]-MET at days 0 (before treatment), 7, and 14 after the treatment. Tumor uptake of each radiotracer in %ID/g was measured for each tumor at each time point and compared to tumor growth. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) was performed to verify the expression of breast cancer-related genes (ERα, ErbB2, progesterone receptor (PR), and BRCA1) in each tumor cell lines.


While both ER+ and ERαKD tumors had similar uptake of both radiotracers without treatment, higher uptake values were generally seen in ERαKD tumors after 7 and 14 days of treatment, indicating that ERαKD tumors behave in a similar fashion as hormone-unresponsive tumors. Furthermore, the ERα-specific downregulation induced a slight PR expression decrease and overexpression of BRCA1 and ErbB2.


The results indicate that the proposed ER+/ERαKD tumor-bearing mouse model is suitable to test pure antiestrogen and aromatase inhibitor therapies in vivo in a preclinical setting and could help to elucidate the impact of ERα levels on tumor response to hormone therapy.

Breast cancer; Tumor mouse model; Estrogen receptor α; Hormone therapy; Small animal PET; FDG; [11C]-methionine; Quantitative PET