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The Search for an Alternative to [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-TATE in Neuroendocrine Tumor Theranostics: Current State of 18F-labeled Somatostatin Analog Development.


The trend to inform personalized molecular radiotherapy with molecular imaging diagnostics, a concept referred to as theranostics, has transformed the field of nuclear medicine in recent years. The development of theranostic pairs comprising somatostatin receptor (SSTR)-targeting nuclear imaging probes and therapeutic agents for the treatment of patients with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) has been a driving force behind this development. With the Neuroendocrine Tumor Therapy (NETTER-1) phase 3 trial reporting encouraging results in the treatment of well-differentiated, metastatic midgut NETs, peptide radioligand therapy (RLT) with the 177Lu-labeled somatostatin analog (SSA) [177Lu]Lu-DOTA-TATE is now anticipated to become the standard of care. On the diagnostics side, the field is currently dominated by 68Ga-labeled SSAs for the molecular imaging of NETs with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT). PET/CT imaging with SSAs such as [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-TATE, [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-TOC, and [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-NOC allows for NET staging with high accuracy and is used to qualify patients for RLT. Driven by the demand for PET/CT imaging of NETs, a commercial kit for the production of [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-TATE (NETSPOT) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The synthesis of 68Ga-labeled SSAs from a 68Ge/68Ga-generator is straightforward and allows for a decentralized production, but there are economic and logistic difficulties associated with these approaches that warrant the search for a viable, generator-independent alternative. The clinical introduction of an 18F-labeled SSTR-imaging probe can help mitigate the shortcomings of the generator-based synthesis approach, but despite extensive research efforts, none of the proposed 18F-labeled SSAs has been translated past prospective first-in-humans studies so far. Here, we review the current state of probe-development from a translational viewpoint and make a case for a clinically viable, 18F-labeled alternative to the current standard [68Ga]Ga-DOTA-TATE.

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