Molecular imaging of breast cancer

T. H.Oude Munnink, W. B. Nagengast, A. H. Brouwers, C. P. Schröder, G. A. Hospers, M. N.Lub de Hooge, E. van der Wall, P. J. van Diest, E. G.E. de Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Molecular imaging of breast cancer can potentially be used for breast cancer screening, staging, restaging, response evaluation and guiding therapies. Techniques for molecular breast cancer imaging include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), optical imaging, and radionuclide imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). This review focuses on PET and SPECT imaging which can provide sensitive serial non invasive information of tumor characteristics. Most clinical data are gathered on the visualization of general processes such as glucose metabolism with the PET-tracer [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and DNA synthesis with [18F]fluoro-L-thymidine (FLT). Increasingly more breast cancer specific targets are imaged such as the estrogen receptor (ER), growth factors and growth factor receptors. Imaging of the ER with the PET tracer 16-α-[18F]fluoro-17-β-estradiol (FES) has shown a good correlation between FES tumor uptake and ER density. 111In-trastuzumab SPECT to image the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) showed that in most patients with metastatic HER2 overexpressing disease more lesions were detected than with conventional staging procedures. The PET tracer 89Zr-trastuzumab showed excellent, quantifiable, and specific tumor uptake. 111In-bevacizumab for SPECT and 89Zr-bevacizumab for PET-imaging have been developed for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) imaging as an angiogenic marker. Lastly, tracers for the receptors EGFR, IGF-1R, PDGF-βR and the ligand TGFβ are under development. Although molecular imaging of breast cancer is still not commonly used in daily clinical practice, its application portfolio is expanding rapidly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S66-S73
Issue numberSUPPL.3
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Molecular imaging
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Single photon emission computed tomography
  • Staging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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