Noninvasive cell-tracking methods

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2011 Sep 27;8(11):677-88. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2011.141.


Cell-based therapies, such as adoptive immunotherapy and stem-cell therapy, have received considerable attention as novel therapeutics in oncological research and clinical practice. The development of effective therapeutic strategies using tumor-targeted cells requires the ability to determine in vivo the location, distribution, and long-term viability of the therapeutic cell populations as well as their biological fate with respect to cell activation and differentiation. In conjunction with various noninvasive imaging modalities, cell-labeling methods, such as exogenous labeling or transfection with a reporter gene, allow visualization of labeled cells in vivo in real time, as well as monitoring and quantifying cell accumulation and function. Such cell-tracking methods also have an important role in basic cancer research, where they serve to elucidate novel biological mechanisms. In this Review, we describe the basic principles of cell-tracking methods, explain various approaches to cell tracking, and highlight recent examples for the application of such methods in animals and humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Contrast Media
  • Dendritic Cells / transplantation
  • Gadolinium
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Animal
  • Nanoparticles
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals


  • Contrast Media
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Gadolinium