Molecular imaging of the tumor microenvironment☆
The tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in tumor initiation, progression, metastasis, and resistance to therapy. It is different from normal tissue in the extracellular matrix, vascular and lymphatic networks, as well as physiologic conditions. Molecular imaging of the tumor microenvironment provides a better understanding of its function in cancer biology, and thus allowing for the design of new diagnostics and therapeutics for early cancer diagnosis and treatment. The clinical translation of cancer molecular imaging is often hampered by the high cost of commercialization of targeted imaging agents as well as the limited clinical applications and small market size of some of the agents. Because many different cancer types share similar tumor microenvironment features, the ability to target these biomarkers has the potential to provide clinically translatable molecular imaging technologies for a spectrum of cancers and broad clinical applications. There has been significant progress in targeting the tumor microenvironment for cancer molecular imaging. In this review, we summarize the principles and strategies of recent advances made in molecular imaging of the tumor microenvironment, using various imaging modalities for early detection and diagnosis of cancer.