Induction of apoptosis is often necessary for successful cancer therapy, and the non-invasive monitoring of apoptosis post-therapy could assist in clinical decision making. Isatins are a class of compounds that target activated caspase-3 during apoptosis. Here we report the synthesis of the 5-iodo-1,2,3-triazole (FITI) analog of the PET tracer [18F]ICMT11 as a candidate tracer for imaging of apoptosis with SPECT, as well as PET. Labelling with radioiodine (123,125I) was achieved in 55 ± 12% radiochemical yield through a chelator-accelerated one-pot cycloaddition reaction mediated by copper(I) catalysis. The caspase-3 binding affinity and selectivity of FITI compares favourably to that of [18F]ICMT11 (Ki = 6.1 ± 0.9 nM and 12.4 ± 4.7 nM, respectively). In biodistribution studies, etoposide-induced cell death in a SW1222 xenograft model resulted in a 2-fold increase in tumour uptake of the tracer. However, the tumour uptake was too low to allow in vivo imaging of apoptosis with SPECT.
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