99mTc-HYNIC-IL-2 scintigraphy to detect acute rejection in lung transplantation patients: a proof-of-concept study

Eef D. Telenga, Wim van der Bij, Erik F.J. de Vries, Erik A.M. Verschuuren, Wim Timens, Gert Luurtsema, Riemer H.J.A. Slart, Alberto Signore, Andor W.J.M. Glaudemans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Rationale: Acute allograft rejection is one of the major complications after lung transplantation, and adequate and early recognition is important. Till now, the reference standard to detect acute rejection is the histopathological grading of transbronchial biopsies (TBBs). Acute rejection is characterised by high levels of activated T lymphocytes. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) binds specifically to high-affinity IL-2 receptors expressed on the cell membrane of activated T lymphocytes. The aim of this proof-of-concept study was to evaluate if non-invasive imaging with 99mTc-HYNIC-IL-2 is able to detect acute rejection after lung transplantation. Methods: 99mTc-HYNIC-IL-2 scintigraphy (static, SPECT/CT of the lungs) was performed shortly before routine transbronchial biopsy (pathology as reference standard). Scans were scored as likely or unlikely for rejection, and semiquantitative analysis (target-to-background ratio) was performed. Results: Thirteen patients were included of which 3 showed acute rejection at transbronchial biopsy; in 2 of these patients (scored as graded 2–3 at pathology), the scan was scored likely for rejection, and in 1 patient (scored grade 1 at pathology), the scan was scored unlikely. No correlation was found between biopsy results and semiquantitative analysis. Conclusion: 99mTc-HYNIC-IL-2 scintigraphy proved to be a good technique to detect grade 2 and 3 acute rejection in a small sample population of patients after lung transplantation. Larger studies are necessary to really show the added value of this non-invasive specific imaging technique over transbronchial biopsy. Alternatively, imaging with the PET tracer 18F-IL-2 may be useful for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
JournalEJNMMI Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Tc-HYNIC-IL-2 scintigraphy
  • Imaging
  • Lung transplantation
  • Rejection


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