Radiolabeled amino acids: basic aspects and clinical applications in oncology

J Nucl Med. 2001 Mar;42(3):432-45.


As the applications of metabolic imaging are expanding, radiolabeled amino acids may gain increased clinical interest. This review first describes the basic aspects of amino acid metabolism, then continues with basic aspects of radiolabeled amino acids, and finally describes clinical applications, with an emphasis on diagnostic value. A special focus is on (11)C-methionine, (11)C-tyrosine, and (123)I-iodomethyltyrosine, because these have been most used clinically, although their common affinity for the L-transport systems may limit generalization to other classes of amino acids. The theoretic and preclinical background of amino acid imaging is sound and supports clinical applications. The fact that amino acid imaging is less influenced by inflammation may be advantageous in comparison with (18)F-FDG PET imaging, although tumor specificity is not absolute. In brain tumor imaging, the use of radiolabeled amino acids is established, the diagnostic accuracy of amino acid imaging seems adequate, and the diagnostic value seems advantageous. The general feasibility of amino acid imaging in other tumor types has sufficiently been shown, but more research is required in larger patient series and in well-defined clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids* / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Carbon Radioisotopes*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes*
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Methionine
  • Methyltyrosines
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Tyrosine


  • Amino Acids
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Methyltyrosines
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Tyrosine
  • Methionine