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Eur J Pharmacol. 2013 Oct 5;717(1-3):2-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.01.079. Epub 2013 Mar 30.

Molecular imaging for monitoring treatment response in breast cancer patients.

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Department of Medical Oncology, University of Groningen, University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Currently, tumour response following drug treatment is based on measurement of anatomical size changes. This is often done according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST) and is generally performed every 2-3 cycles. Bone metastases, being the most common site of distant metastases in breast cancer, are not measurable by RECIST. The standard response measurement provides no insight in changes of molecular characteristics. In the era of targeted medicine, knowledge of specific molecular tumour characteristics becomes more important. A potential way to assess this is by means of molecular imaging. Molecular imaging can visualise general tumour processes, such as glucose metabolism with (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) and DNA synthesis with (18)F-fluorodeoxythymidine ((18)F-FLT). In addition, an increasing number of more specific targets, such as hormone receptors, growth factor receptors, and growth factors can be visualised. In the future molecular imaging may thus be of value for personalised treatment-selection by providing insight in the expression of these drug targets. Additionally, when molecular changes can be detected early during therapy, this may serve as early predictor of response. However, in order to define clinical utility of this approach results from (ongoing) clinical trials is required. In this review we summarise the potential role of molecular imaging of general tumour processes as well as hormone receptors, growth factor receptors, and tumour micro-environment for predicting and monitoring treatment response in breast cancer patients.


Breast cancer; Molecular imaging; PET; RECIST; Response monitoring

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