Tumor receptor imaging

J Nucl Med. 2008 Jun;49 Suppl 2:149S-63S. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.107.045963.


Tumor receptors play an important role in carcinogenesis and tumor growth and have been some of the earliest targets for tumor-specific therapy, for example, the estrogen receptor in breast cancer. Knowledge of receptor expression is key for therapy directed at tumor receptors and traditionally has been obtained by assay of biopsy material. Tumor receptor imaging offers complementary information that includes evaluation of the entire tumor burden and characterization of the heterogeneity of tumor receptor expression. The nature of the ligand-receptor interaction poses a challenge for imaging--notably, the requirement for a low molecular concentration of the imaging probe to avoid saturating the receptor and increasing the background because of nonspecific uptake. For this reason, much of the work to date in tumor receptor imaging has been done with radionuclide probes. In this overview of tumor receptor imaging, aspects of receptor biochemistry and biology that underlie tumor receptor imaging are reviewed, with the estrogen-estrogen receptor system in breast cancer as an illustrative example. Examples of progress in radionuclide receptor imaging for 3 receptor systems--steroid receptors, somatostatin receptors, and growth factor receptors-are highlighted, and recent investigations of receptor imaging with other molecular imaging modalities are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism
  • Somatostatin / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Ligands
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Somatostatin