Advances in PET Detection of the Antitumor T Cell Response

Adv Immunol. 2016:131:187-231. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Apr 5.


Positron emission tomography (PET) is a powerful noninvasive imaging technique able to measure distinct biological processes in vivo by administration of a radiolabeled probe. Whole-body measurements track the probe accumulation providing a means to measure biological changes such as metabolism, cell location, or tumor burden. PET can also be applied to both preclinical and clinical studies providing three-dimensional information. For immunotherapies (in particular understanding T cell responses), PET can be utilized for spatial and longitudinal tracking of T lymphocytes. Although PET has been utilized clinically for over 30 years, the recent development of additional PET radiotracers have dramatically expanded the use of PET to detect endogenous or adoptively transferred T cells in vivo. Novel probes have identified changes in T cell quantity, location, and function. This has enabled investigators to track T cells outside of the circulation and in hematopoietic organs such as spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow, or within tumors. In this review, we cover advances in PET detection of the antitumor T cell response and areas of focus for future studies.

Keywords: Immuno-PET; Molecular imaging; Noninvasive imaging; PET; Reporter gene; Tracking T cells.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / trends
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation


  • Antigens, Neoplasm