The greatest challenge in cancer treatment is to achieve the highest levels of specificity and efficacy. Cancer gene therapy could be designed specifically to express therapeutic genes to induce cancer cell destruction. Cancer-specific promoters are useful tools to accomplish targeted expression; however, high levels of gene expression are needed to achieve therapeutic efficacy. Incorporating an imaging reporter gene in tandem with the therapeutic gene will allow tangible proof of principle that gene expression occurs at the correct location and at a sufficient level. Gene-based imaging can advance cancer detection and diagnosis. By combining the cancer-targeted imaging and therapeutic strategies, the exciting prospect of a 'one-two punch' to find hidden, disseminated cancer cells and destroy them simultaneously can potentially be realized.