Take a look

Uptake of Pembrolizumab in lymphoid organs 

89Zr-pembrolizumab biodistribution is influenced by PD-1-mediated uptake in lymphoid organs

Elly L van der Veen, Danique Giesen, Linda Pot-de Jong, Annelies Jorritsma-Smit, Elisabeth G E De Vries, and Marjolijn N Lub-de Hooge


J Immunother Cancer. 2020; 8(2): e000938. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-000938


To better predict response to immune checkpoint therapy and toxicity in healthy tissues, insight in the in vivo behavior of immune checkpoint targeting monoclonal antibodies is essential. Therefore, we aimed to study in vivo pharmacokinetics and whole-body distribution of zirconium-89 (89Zr) labeled programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) targeting pembrolizumab with positron-emission tomography (PET) in humanized mice.

Humanized (huNOG) and non-humanized NOG mice were xenografted with human A375M melanoma cells. PET imaging was performed on day 7 post 89Zr-pembrolizumab (10 µg, 2.5 MBq) administration, followed by ex vivo biodistribution studies. Other huNOG mice bearing A375M tumors received a co-injection of excess (90 µg) unlabeled pembrolizumab or 89Zr-IgG4 control (10 µg, 2.5 MBq). Tumor and spleen tissue were studied with autoradiography and immunohistochemically including PD-1.

PET imaging and biodistribution studies showed high 89Zr-pembrolizumab uptake in tissues containing human immune cells, including spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow. Tumor uptake of 89Zr-pembrolizumab was lower than uptake in lymphoid tissues, but higher than uptake in other organs. High uptake in lymphoid tissues could be reduced by excess unlabeled pembrolizumab. Tracer activity in blood pool was increased by addition of unlabeled pembrolizumab, but tumor uptake was not affected. Autoradiography supported PET findings and immunohistochemical staining on spleen and lymph node tissue showed PD-1 positive cells, whereas tumor tissue was PD-1 negative.

89Zr-pembrolizumab whole-body biodistribution showed high PD-1-mediated uptake in lymphoid tissues, such as spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow, and modest tumor uptake. Our data may enable evaluation of 89Zr-pembrolizumab whole-body distribution in patients.