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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Nov 15;11(22):7967-85.

The progress and promise of molecular imaging probes in oncologic drug development.

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  • 1Cancer Imaging Program, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


As addressed by the recent Food and Drug Administration Critical Path Initiative, tools are urgently needed to increase the speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of drug development for cancer and other diseases. Molecular imaging probes developed based on recent scientific advances have great potential as oncologic drug development tools. Basic science studies using molecular imaging probes can help to identify and characterize disease-specific targets for oncologic drug therapy. Imaging end points, based on these disease-specific biomarkers, hold great promise to better define, stratify, and enrich study groups and to provide direct biological measures of response. Imaging-based biomarkers also have promise for speeding drug evaluation by supplementing or replacing preclinical and clinical pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic evaluations, including target interaction and modulation. Such analyses may be particularly valuable in early comparative studies among candidates designed to interact with the same molecular target. Finally, as response biomarkers, imaging end points that characterize tumor vitality, growth, or apoptosis can also serve as early surrogates of therapy success. This article outlines the scientific basis of oncology imaging probes and presents examples of probes that could facilitate progress. The current regulatory opportunities for new and existing probe development and testing are also reviewed, with a focus on recent Food and Drug Administration guidance to facilitate early clinical development of promising probes.

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