Cannot Target What Cannot Be Seen: Molecular Imaging of Cancer Stem Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jan 12;24(2):1524. doi: 10.3390/ijms24021524.


Cancer stem cells are known to play a key role in tumour development, proliferation, and metastases. Their unique properties confer resistance to therapy, often leading to treatment failure. It is believed that research into the identification, targeting, and eradication of these cells can revolutionise oncological treatment. Based on the principle that what cannot be seen, cannot be targeted, a primary step in cancer management is the identification of these cells. The current review aims to encompass the state-of-the-art functional imaging techniques that enable the identification of cancer stem cells via various pathways and mechanisms. The paper presents in vivo molecular techniques that are currently available or await clinical implementation. Challenges and future prospects are highlighted to open new research avenues in cancer stem cell imaging.

Keywords: functional imaging; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); personalised therapy; positron emission tomography (PET); single photon emission tomography (SPECT).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells
  • Positron-Emission Tomography* / methods
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.