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European Biopharmaceutical Review

PET Technology and Tumour Progression




Positron emission tomography (PET) is a widely used imaging technique in nuclear medicine for both clinical diagnostics and preclinical applications. PET enables 3D functional imaging using radioactive tracers (radiotracers), highlighting the spatial distribution of biomolecular activity in the bodies of animal models and humans. In this context, PET imaging is increasingly being used by researchers in drug development as it provides data that can be extrapolated from animal to human studies. Small animal imaging deepens our understanding of disease development and the effect of potential treatments, advances in PET technology are powering the translation of this research into the clinical setting.

The numerous types of tumours including those not yet well characterised and their unpredictable reactions to treatment make the search for new effective cancer therapies incredibly challenging. Non-invasive in vivo imaging technologies such as PET allow researchers to better understand the course of tumour development by visualising cancer-related processes in real time. Such methods are enabling researchers to further their knowledge of tumour morphology, progression, and biomarker expression. PET is able to provide information on the expression of receptors, energy metabolism, and other biomarkers of tumours by imaging an intravenously injected radiotracer. This radiotracer comprised a radioisotope, most commonly fluorine-18 (18F), attached to a molecular probe that targets a specific molecule or metabolic pathway, and its uptake by tumour cells is monitored.

The combination of other imaging modalities, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), joins structural and functional imaging in one experiment. PET/CT, PET/MRI, and PET/SPECT/CT multimodal systems are able to provide quantitative 3D tomographic images of radiotracers, bone, and soft tissue, furthering the growing knowledge of cancer biology and treatment.

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Dr Todd Sasser is Head of Applications for Bruker Preclinical Imaging. Todd works directly with research sites involved in PET applications across a wide variety of disciplines from infection imaging and cancer biology to probe development. He studied at the University of Liverpool, UK, and The University of Hawaii, US, and was a visiting scholar at The University of Notre Dame, France.
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