Metabolic and molecular imaging in neuro-oncology

Lancet Neurol. 2007 Aug;6(8):711-24. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(07)70192-8.


Techniques for human brain imaging have undergone rapid developments in recent years. Technological progress has enabled the assessment of many physiological parameters in vivo that are highly relevant for tumour grading, tissue characterisation, definition of the extent and infiltration of tumours, and planning and monitoring of therapy. In this review, we provide a brief overview of advanced MRI and molecular-tracer techniques that have many potential clinical uses. A broad range of techniques, including dynamic MRI, PET, and single photon emission computed tomography, provide measurements of various features of tumour blood flow and microvasculature. Using PET to measure glucose consumption enables visualisation of tumour metabolism, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques provide complementary information on energy metabolism. Changes in protein and DNA synthesis can be assessed through uptake of labelled amino acids and nucleosides. Advanced imaging techniques can be used to assess tumour malignancy, extent, and infiltration, and might provide diagnostic clues to distinguish between lesion types and between recurrent tumour and necrosis. Stereotactic biopsies should be taken from the most malignant part of tumours, which can be identified by changes in microvascular structure and metabolic activity. Functional and metabolic imaging can improve the planning and monitoring of radiation and chemotherapy and contribute to the development of new therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / blood supply
  • Brain Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology*
  • Radionuclide Imaging