Angiogenesis is a complex biological process that plays a central role in progression of tumor growth and metastasis. It led to a search for antiangiogenic molecules, and to design antiangiogenic strategies for cancer treatment. Noninvasive molecular imaging, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), could be useful for lesion detection, to select patients likely to respond to antiangiogenic therapies, to confirm successful targeting, and dose optimization. Additionally, nuclear imaging techniques could also aid in the development of new angiogenesis-targeted drugs and their validation. Angiogenesis imaging can be categorized as targeted at three major cell types: (I) non-endothelial cell targets, (II) endothelial cell targets, and (III) extracellular matrix proteins and matrix proteases. Even if radiopharmaceuticals studying the metabolism and hypoxia can be also used for the study of angiogenesis, many of the agents used in nuclear imaging for this purpose are yet to be investigated. The purpose of this review is to describe the role of molecular imaging in tumor angiogenesis, highlighting the advances in this field.
Keywords: (positron emission tomography) PET; molecular imaging; radiopharmaceutical; single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT); tumor angiogenesis.