Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

PET Imaging of Mitochondrial Activity in Lung Tumor Cells

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2020

According to research published in Nature, PET scans can be used to track mitochondrial activity in lung tumor cells, a potential biomarker that could predict how a patient might respond to complex I inhibitor treatment. Mitochondrial activity was tracked using the radiotracer 4-[18F]fluorobenzyl-triphenylphosphonium (18F-BnTP).

“Our study represents a new and noninvasive approach to using 18F-BnTP PET imaging to profile mitochondrial ΔΨ and functional mitochondrial heterogeneity within [non–small cell lung cancer],” noted Milica Momcilovic, MD, PhD, of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues.

The study focused on tracking the oxidative mitochondrial metabolism in non–small cell lung cancer. Mitochondria are known to be critical to tumor development and growth, but mitochondrial membrane potential, created by the electron transport chain to spur the creation of ATP, has primarily been studied using in vitro cell culture models. This study used voltage-sensitive PET probes to identify the radiotracer 18F-BnTP. This allowed for the detection of mitochondrial activity in vivo using mice with a type of lung cancer.

The mitochondrial membrane potential was functionally profiled using PET imaging. After mitochondrial activity was detected, the lung tumors were surgically removed. The function and activity of the mitochondria were then analyzed. Overall, unique mitochondrial activity and complex I activity profiles were observed in both lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma tumor types and were found to be predictive of complex I inhibitor response.

“PET imaging of 18F-BnTP represents a valuable resource not only to the field of cancer metabolism but also to other fields that are actively investigating mitochondrial activity in aging, physiology, and disease,” concluded the authors.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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