PSMA as a Theranostic Target in Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Immunohistochemistry and 68Ga-PSMA-11 PET Using Cyclotron-Produced 68Ga

Scott M. Thompson, Garima Suman, Michael S. Torbenson, Zong Ming E. Chen, Danielle E. Jondal, Anurima Patra, Eric C. Ehman, James C. Andrews, Chad J. Fleming, Brian T. Welch, Anil N. Kurup, Lewis R. Roberts, Kymberly D. Watt, Mark J. Truty, Sean P. Cleary, Rory L. Smoot, Julie K. Heimbach, Nguyen H. Tran, Amit Mahipal, Jun YinTyler Zemla, Chen Wang, Zachary Fogarty, Mark Jacobson, Bradley J. Kemp, Sudhakar K. Venkatesh, Geoffrey B. Johnson, David A. Woodrum, Ajit H. Goenka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is a validated target for molecular diagnostics and targeted radionuclide therapy. Our purpose was to evaluate PSMA expression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), and hepatic adenoma (HCA); investigate the genetic pathways in HCC associated with PSMA expression; and evaluate HCC detection rate with 68Ga-PSMA-11 positron emission tomography (PET). In phase 1, PSMA immunohistochemistry (IHC) on HCC (n = 148), CCA (n = 111), and HCA (n = 78) was scored. In a subset (n = 30), messenger RNA (mRNA) data from the Cancer Genome Atlas HCC RNA sequencing were correlated with PSMA expression. In phase 2, 68Ga-PSMA-11 PET was prospectively performed in patients with treatment-naïve HCC on a digital PET scanner using cyclotron-produced 68Ga. Uptake was graded qualitatively and semi-quantitatively using standard metrics. On IHC, PSMA expression was significantly higher in HCC compared with CCA and HCA (P < 0.0001); 91% of HCCs (n = 134) expressed PSMA, which principally localized to tumor-associated neovasculature. Higher tumor grade was associated with PSMA expression (P = 0.012) but there was no association with tumor size (P = 0.14), fibrosis (P = 0.35), cirrhosis (P = 0.74), hepatitis B virus (P = 0.31), or hepatitis C virus (P = 0.15). Overall survival tended to be longer in patients without versus with PSMA expression (median overall survival: 4.2 vs. 1.9 years; P = 0.273). FGF14 (fibroblast growth factor 14) mRNA expression correlated positively (rho = 0.70; P = 1.70 × 10-5) and MAD1L1 (Mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint protein MAD1) correlated negatively with PSMA expression (rho = −0.753; P = 1.58 × 10-6). Of the 190 patients who met the eligibility criteria, 31 patients with 39 HCC lesions completed PET; 64% (n = 25) lesions had pronounced 68Ga-PSMA-11 standardized uptake value: SUVmax (median [range] 9.2 [4.9-28.4]), SUVmean 4.7 (2.4-12.7), and tumor-to-liver background ratio 2 (1.1-11). Conclusion: Ex vivo expression of PSMA in neovasculature of HCC translates to marked tumor avidity on 68Ga-PSMA-11 PET, which suggests that PSMA has the potential as a theranostic target in patients with HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1172-1185
Number of pages14
JournalHepatology Communications
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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