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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Aug 20;26(24):4012-21. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.14.3065.

New technologies for human cancer imaging.

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  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave, Rm SL-B05, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Despite technical advances in many areas of diagnostic radiology, the detection and imaging of human cancer remains poor. A meaningful impact on cancer screening, staging, and treatment is unlikely to occur until the tumor-to-background ratio improves by three to four orders of magnitude (ie, 10(3)- to 10(4)-fold), which in turn will require proportional improvements in sensitivity and contrast agent targeting. This review analyzes the physics and chemistry of cancer imaging and highlights the fundamental principles underlying the detection of malignant cells within a background of normal cells. The use of various contrast agents and radiotracers for cancer imaging is reviewed, as are the current limitations of ultrasound, x-ray imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), single-photon emission computed tomography, positron emission tomography (PET), and optical imaging. Innovative technologies are emerging that hold great promise for patients, such as positron emission mammography of the breast and spectroscopy-enhanced colonoscopy for cancer screening, hyperpolarization MRI and time-of-flight PET for staging, and ion beam-induced PET scanning and near-infrared fluorescence-guided surgery for cancer treatment. This review explores these emerging technologies and considers their potential impact on clinical care. Finally, those cancers that are currently difficult to image and quantify, such as ovarian cancer and acute leukemia, are discussed.

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