Tumor cells have an increased nutritional demand for amino acids (AAs) to satisfy their rapid proliferation. Positron-emitting nuclide labeled AAs are interesting probes and are of great importance for imaging tumors using positron emission tomography (PET). Carbon-11 and fluorine-18 labeled AAs include the [1-11C] AAs, labeling alpha-C- AAs, the branched-chain of AAs and N-substituted carbon-11 labeled AAs. These tracers target protein synthesis or amino acid (AA) transport, and their uptake mechanism mainly involves AA transport. AA PET tracers have been widely used in clinical settings to image brain tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, prostate cancer, breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and hepatocellular carcinoma. This review focuses on the fundamental concepts and the uptake mechanism of AAs, AA PET tracers and their clinical applications.
Keywords: carbon-11; fluorine-18; imaging; positron emission tomography; positron-emitting AAs; tumors.