In vivo imaging of cancer biomarkers using activatable molecular probes

Drew R. Elias, Daniel L.J. Thorek, Antony K. Chen, Julie Czupryna, Andrew Tsourkas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


With the continued advancements in cellular and molecular biology, especially in the areas of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, the scientific research community is gaining ground in uncovering the tortuous details associated with cancer. Molecular imaging has undergone a similar progression and is showing promise as a future method to aid in the early detection of malignancies, locating metastatic disease, staging tumors, evaluating the availability of therapeutic targets, and monitoring the efficacy of treatment. A subset of molecular imaging contrast agents known as "activatable molecular probes" has generated a particularly high level of excitement in the imaging community. Activatable molecular probes are designed to elicit a detectable change in signal upon enzymatic activity or in response to specific biomolecular interactions. In many cases, these unique characteristics allow for very high signal-to-background ratios compared with conventional targeted contrast agents and they open up the possibility of imaging intracellular targets. In this review, we will discuss some of the activatable probes recently developed for optical and magnetic resonance imaging platforms and their use in the visualization of cancer biomarkers in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-305
Number of pages19
JournalCancer Biomarkers
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Activatable probes
  • Molecular beacons
  • Molecular imaging
  • Molecular probes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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