Journal of nuclear medicine : official publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine

Optical in vivo imaging of the alarmin S100A9 in tumor lesions allows for estimation of the individual malignant potential by evaluation of tumor-host cell interaction.

PMID 25678492


Tumors recruit and reprogram immune cells to support tumor development and spread, the most prominent among them being of monocytic origin such as tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) or myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC). The alarmin S100A8/A9 has been implicated in the induction of TAM and MDSC. We assessed S100A9 as a molecular imaging marker for the activity of tumor-associated immune cells in a syngeneic murine breast cancer model. S100A9 could serve as a surrogate marker for tumor immune crosstalk as a function of malignancy, providing a tool with the potential for both basic research in tumor immunology and clinical stratification of patients. BALB/c mice were inoculated with murine breast cancer cells of common origin but different metastatic capability. At different times during tumor development, optical imaging was performed using a S100A9-specific probe to visualize activated monocytes. To further explore the impact of tumor-educated monocytes, splenic myeloid cells were isolated from either healthy or tumor-bearing animals and injected into tumor-bearing mice. We analyzed the effect of the cell transfer on immune cell activity and tumor development. We could prove S100A9-driven imaging to sensitively and specifically reflect monocyte activity in primary tumor lesions. The imaging results were corroborated by histology and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analyses. In a prospective experiment, S100A9 imaging proved indicative of the individual tumor growth, with excellent correlation. Moreover, we could show that the monocyte activity as depicted by S100A9 activity in the primary tumor lesion mirrored the tumor's metastatic behavior. Treatment with tumor-primed splenic monocytes induced increased tumor growth, accompanied by an augmented infiltration of activated myeloid cells (MDSC and TAM) into the tumor. The consecutive S100A9 expression as depicted by in vivo imaging was significantly increased. S100A9 proved to be a sensitive and specific marker for the activity of tumor-associated immune cells. To our knowledge, S100A9 imaging represents a first in vivo imaging approach for the estimation of recruitment and activity of tumor-associated myeloid immune cells. We demonstrated the potential value of this imaging approach for prediction of local and systemic tumor development.