Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have been effective in treating a subset of refractory solid tumors, but only a small percentage of treated patients benefit from these therapies. Thus, there is a clinical need for reliable tools that allow for the early assessment of response to ICIs, as well as a preclinical need for imaging tools that aid in the future development and understanding of immunotherapies. Here we demonstrate that CD69, a canonical early-activation marker expressed on a variety of activated immune cells, including cytotoxic T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, is a promising biomarker for the early assessment of response to immunotherapies. We have developed a PET probe by radiolabeling a highly specific CD69 mAb, H1.2F3, with Zirconium-89 (89Zr), [89Zr]-deferoxamine (DFO)-H1.2F3. [89Zr]-DFO-H1.2F3 detected changes in CD69 expression on primary mouse T cells in vitro and detected activated immune cells in a syngeneic tumor immunotherapy model. In vitro uptake studies with [89Zr]-DFO-H1.2F3 showed a 15-fold increase in CD69 expression for activated primary mouse T cells, relative to untreated resting T cells. In vivo PET imaging showed that tumors of ICI-responsive mice had greater uptake than the tumors of nonresponsive and untreated mice. Ex vivo biodistribution, autoradiography, and IHC analyses supported the PET imaging findings. These data suggest that the CD69 PET imaging approach detects CD69 expression with sufficient sensitivity to quantify immune cell activation in a syngeneic mouse immunotherapy model and could allow for the prediction of therapeutic immune responses to novel immunotherapies.

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