Molecular imaging is being hailed as the next great advance for imaging. This introductory article in the molecular imaging series to be published over the next several months in Radiology sets the stage for the subsequent set of articles by providing relevant definitions and background information and traces the evolution of molecular imaging to its current state of research and clinical practice. It discusses in detail the evolution of molecular imaging and the role that the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health have had in the funding and development of many of the important molecular imaging research programs that are in existence today. The article also provides basic information about the complex biology of the cell and details of the pathogenesis of cancer and how molecular imaging will be critical for earlier detection and management of cancer in the future. The article lays the foundation for the subsequent articles in the series and describes how and why molecular imaging will be critical and integral for clinical care of patients in the future. The introductory article also discusses the relevance of molecular imaging to clinical radiology practice and why it is critical for the practicing radiologist to understand these evolving techniques, as they will be the future of imaging.
(c) RSNA, 2007.