The integration of chemistry and molecular biology with imaging is providing some of the most exciting opportunities in the treatment of cancer. The field of theranostic imaging, where diagnosis is combined with therapy, is particularly suitable for a disease as complex as cancer, especially now that genomic and proteomic profiling can provide an extensive 'fingerprint' of each tumor. Using this information, theranostic agents can be shaped for personalized treatment to target specific compartments, such as the tumor microenvironment (TME), whilst minimizing damage to normal tissue. These theranostic agents can also be used to target multiple pathways or networks by incorporating multiple small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) within a single agent. A decade ago genetic alterations were the primary focus in cancer research. Now it is apparent that the tumor physiological microenvironment, interactions between cancer cells and stromal cells, such as endothelial cells, fibroblasts and macrophages, the extracellular matrix (ECM), and a host of secreted factors and cytokines, influence progression to metastatic disease, aggressiveness and the response of the disease to treatment. In this review, we outline some of the characteristics of the TME, describe the theranostic agents currently available to target the TME and discuss the unique opportunities the TME provides for the design of novel theranostic agents for cancer therapy.
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.