Molecular Imaging in Oncological Research

Molecular imaging has become a widely established procedure for diagnosing various disease states and monitoring the effects of therapeutic treatments in humans. In recent years, molecular imaging has also become a valuable preclinical research tool for studying the development and progression of disease in mouse and rat models, as well as the efficacy of potential therapeutic treatments. Dedicated, small animal imaging systems, which include MRI, PET, SPECT, Fluorescence/Bioluminescence, X-Ray CT, and Ultrasound, allow for the characterization of biological, molecular and cellular processes in vivo, with exceptional levels of resolution and sensitivity.

While each preclinical imaging modality has is strengths and weaknesses, they are all relatively non-invasive as compared to traditional ex vivo methodologies. This is especially useful in oncological research, in which the effects of novel therapeutic interventions on the growth and proliferation of tumors are typically monitored over an extended period of time. Because these imaging techniques are minimally invasive, the same animals can be imaged at each successive time point. This not only reduces research costs and complexity, it reduces the statistical variability that is normally present in traditional ex vivo protocols, in which histological data are obtained from groups of animals euthanized at different time points. In longitudinal preclinical imaging experiments, each animal serves as its own control, thereby improving the statistical quality of the data.

Molecular imaging procedures greatly facilitate the translation of preclinical studies to applications in the clinic. This is especially true of the nuclear, CT and MRI modalities, which are currently in clinical use. The TriFoil Imaging Triumph II SPECT/CT, for example, is a powerful research tool for studying rat and mouse models of oncologic disease.  The Triumph SPECT/CT is fully capable of imaging subcutaneous, orthotopic and small metastatic tumors, all while using the same imaging protocols and radiopharmaceuticals used in clinical investigations. It is also an ideal tool for evaluating novel, more sensitive tumor-targeting radiopharmaceuticals, which my ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of cancers in humans. This ability to bridge the gap from ex vivo to in vivo research with animal models of disease is unique in the molecular imaging industry and facilitates the translation of research from the bench to the clinic.