In vivo imaging of immune cell trafficking in cancer

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2011 May;38(5):949-68. doi: 10.1007/s00259-010-1687-7. Epub 2010 Dec 18.


Tumour establishment, progression and regression can be studied in vivo using an array of imaging techniques ranging from MRI to nuclear-based and optical techniques that highlight the intrinsic behaviour of different cell populations in the physiological context. Clinical in vivo imaging techniques and preclinical specific approaches have been used to study, both at the macroscopic and microscopic level, tumour cells, their proliferation, metastasisation, death and interaction with the environment and with the immune system. Fluorescent, radioactive or paramagnetic markers were used in direct protocols to label the specific cell population and reporter genes were used for genetic, indirect labelling protocols to track the fate of a given cell subpopulation in vivo. Different protocols have been proposed to in vivo study the interaction between immune cells and tumours by different imaging techniques (intravital and whole-body imaging). In particular in this review we report several examples dealing with dendritic cells, T lymphocytes and macrophages specifically labelled for different imaging procedures both for the study of their physiological function and in the context of anti-neoplastic immunotherapies in the attempt to exploit imaging-derived information to improve and optimise anti-neoplastic immune-based treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Molecular Probes / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Molecular Probes