Melanoma is a deadly disease that often exhibits relentless progression and can have both early and late metastases. Recent advances in immunotherapy and targeted therapy have dramatically increased patient survival for patients with melanoma. Similar advances in molecular targeted PET imaging can identify molecular pathways that promote disease progression and therefore offer physiological information. Thus, they can be used to assess prognosis, tumor heterogeneity, and identify instances of treatment failure. Numerous agents tested preclinically and clinically demonstrate promising results with high tumor-to-background ratios in both primary and metastatic melanoma tumors. Here, we detail the development and testing of multiple molecular targeted PET-imaging agents, including agents for general oncological imaging and those specifically for PET imaging of melanoma. Of the numerous radiopharmaceuticals evaluated for this purpose, several have made it to clinical trials and showed promising results. Ultimately, these agents may become the standard of care for melanoma imaging if they are able to demonstrate micrometastatic disease and thus provide more accurate information for staging. Furthermore, these agents provide a more accurate way to monitor response to therapy. Patients will be able to receive treatment based on tumor uptake characteristics and may be able to be treated earlier for lesions that with traditional imaging would be subclinical, overall leading to improved outcomes for patients.
Keywords: PET imaging; melanoma; molecular targeting.