Aptamers as radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear imaging and therapy

Marlies Gijs, An Aerts, Nathalie Impens, Sarah Baatout, Andre Luxen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Today, radiopharmaceuticals belong to the standard instrumentation of nuclear medicine, both in the context of diagnosis and therapy. The majority of radiopharmaceuticals consist of targeting biomolecules which are designed to interact with a disease-related molecular target. A plethora of targeting biomolecules of radiopharmaceuticals exists, including antibodies, antibody fragments, proteins, peptides and nucleic acids. Nucleic acids have some significant advantages relative to proteinaceous biomolecules in terms of size, production, modifications, possible targets and immunogenicity. In particular, aptamers (non-coding, synthetic, single-stranded DNA or RNA oligonucleotides) are of interest because they can bind a molecular target with high affinity and specificity. At present, few aptamers have been investigated preclinically for imaging and therapeutic applications. In this review, we describe the use of aptamers as targeting biomolecules of radiopharmaceuticals. We also discuss the chemical modifications which are needed to turn aptamers into valuable (radio-)pharmaceuticals, as well as the different radiolabeling strategies that can be used to radiolabel oligonucleotides and, in particular, aptamers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-271
JournalNuclear Medicine and Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Aptamer
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Imaging
  • Therapy

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