Synthesis and evaluation of 18F-labeled choline analogs as oncologic PET tracers

T. R. DeGrado, S. W. Baldwin, S. Wang, M. D. Orr, R. P. Liao, H. S. Friedman, R. Reiman, D. T. Price, R. E. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Scopus citations


Elevated levels of choline (trimethyl-2-hydroxyethylammonium) and choline kinase (CK) activity in neoplasms have motivated the development of positron-labeled choline analogs for noninvasive detection of cancer using PET. The aim of this study was to further evaluate [18F]fluorocholine (fluoromethyl-dimethyl-2-hydroxyethylammonium [FCH]) as an oncologic probe in comparison with several other closely related molecules. Methods: FCH, [18F]fluoromethyl-methylethyl-2-hydroxyethylammonium (FMEC), [18F]fluoroethyl-dimethyl-2-hydroxyethylammonium (FEC), and [18F]fluoropropyl-dimethyl-2-hydroxyethylammonium (FPC) were synthesized through [18F]fluoroalkylation reactions. In vitro phosphorylation rates of the 18F-labeled choline analogs and [methyl14C]choline (CH) were studied using yeast CK. Several choline radiotracers were also evaluated in cultured PC-3 human prostate cancer cells. Data on chemical stability, radiation dosimetry, and toxicity of FCH were obtained. PET studies with FCH were performed on a patient with prostate cancer and a patient with a brain tumor. Results: FCH and FMEC revealed in vitro phosphorylation by CK that was similar to that of choline, whereas rates of phosphorylation of FEC and FPC were 30% (P < 0.01) and 60% (P < 0.01) lower, respectively. Accumulations of FCH, CH, and FPC in cultured PC-3 cancer cells were comparable, whereas uptake of FEC was approximately one fifth that of FCH. Dosimetry estimates using FCH biodistribution data in mice indicated that the kidneys are radiation-dose-critical organs for FCH. PET images of a patient with recurrent prostate cancer showed uptake of FCH in the prostatic bed and in metastases to lymph nodes. FCH PET showed uptake in malignancies in a patient with metastatic breast cancer. PET revealed FCH uptake in biopsy-proven recurrent brain tumor with little confounding uptake by normal brain tissues. Conclusion: The fluoromethyl choline analog FCH may serve as a probe of choline uptake and phosphorylation in cancer cells, whereas fluoroethyl (FEC) and fluoropropyl (FPC) analogs appear to have relatively poorer biologic compatibility. Preliminary PET studies on patients with prostate cancer and with breast cancer and brain tumor support further studies to evaluate the usefulness of FCH as an oncologic probe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1805-1814
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Brain tumors
  • Breast cancer
  • Choline
  • PET
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Synthesis and evaluation of 18F-labeled choline analogs as oncologic PET tracers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this