In Vivo Imaging of Apoptosis in Oncology: An Update

Christel Vangestel*, Marc Peeters, Gilles Mees, Ruth Oltenfreiter, Hendrikus H. Boersma, Philip H. Elsinga, Chris P. M. Reutelingsperger, Nancy Van Damme, Bart De Spiegeleer, Christophe Van de Wiele

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this review, data on noninvasive imaging of apoptosis in oncology are reviewed. Imaging data available are presented in order of occurrence in time of enzymatic and morphologic events occurring during apoptosis. Available studies suggest that various radiopharmaceutical probes bear great potential for apoptosis imaging by means of positron emission tomography and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). However, for several of these probes, thorough toxicologic studies are required before they can be applied in clinical studies. Both preclinical and clinical studies support the notion that (99)mTc-hydrazinonicotinamide-annexin A5 and SPECT allow for noninvasive, repetitive, quantitative apoptosis imaging and for assessing tumor response as as 24 hours following treatment instigation. Bioluminescence imaging and near-infrared fluorescence imaging have shown great potential in small-animal imaging, but their usefulness for in vivo imaging in humans is limited to structures superficially located in the human body. Although preclinical tumor-based data using high-frequency-ultrasonography (US) are promising, whether or not US will become a routinely clinically useful tool in the assessment of therapy response in oncology remains to be proven. The potential of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) for imaging late apoptotic processes is currently unclear. Neither P-31 MRS nor H-1 MRS signals seems to be a unique identifier for apoptosis. Although MRI-measured apparent diffusion coefficients are altered in response to therapies that induce apoptosis, they are also altered by nonapoptotic cell death, including necrosis and mitotic catastrophe. In the future, rapid progress in the field of apoptosis imaging in oncology is expected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-358
JournalMolecular Imaging
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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