BACKGROUND: The radiofluorinated levodopa analogue 6-[18F]F-L-DOPA (3,4-dihydroxy-6-18F-L-phenylalanine) is a commonly employed radiotracer for PET/CT imaging of multiple oncological and neurological indications. An unusually large number of different radiosyntheses have been published to the point where two different Ph. Eur. monographs exist depending on whether the chemistry relies on electrophilic or nucleophilic radiosubstitution of appropriate chemical precursors. For new PET imaging sites wishing to adopt [18F]FDOPA into clinical practice, selecting the appropriate production process may be difficult and dependent on the clinical needs of the site.
METHODS: Data from four years of [18F]FDOPA production at three different clinical sites are collected and compared. These three sites, Aarhus University Hospital (AUH), Odense University Hospital (OUH), and Herlev University Hospital (HUH), produce the radiotracer by different radiosynthetic routes with AUH adopting an electrophilic strategy, while OUH and HUH employ two different nucleophilic approaches. Production failure rates, radiochemical yields, and molar activities are compared across sites and time. Additionally, the clinical use of the radiotracer over the time period considered at the different sites are presented and discussed.
RESULTS: The electrophilic substitution route suffers from being demanding in terms of cyclotron operation and maintenance. This challenge, however, was found to be compensated by a production failure rate significantly below that of both nucleophilic approaches; a result of simpler chemistry. The five-step nucleophilic approach employed at HUH produces superior radiochemical yields compared to the three-step approach adopted at OUH but suffers from the need for more comprehensive synthesis equipment given the multi-step nature of the procedure, including HPLC purification. While the procedure at OUH furnishes the lowest radiochemical yield of the synthetic routes considered, it produces the highest molar activity. This is of importance across the clinical applications of the tracer discussed here, including dopamine synthesis in striatum of subjects with schizophrenia and congenital hyperinsulinism in infants.
CONCLUSION: For most sites either of the two nucleophilic substitution strategies should be favored. However, which of the two will depend on whether a given site wishes to optimize the radiochemical yield or the ease of the use.