Nuclear medicine has evolved over the last half-century from a functional imaging modality using a handful of radiopharmaceuticals, many of unknown structure and mechanism of action, into a modern speciality that can properly be described as molecular imaging, with a very large number of specific radioactive probes of known structure that image specific molecular processes. The advances of cancer treatment in recent decades towards targeted and immune therapies, combined with recognition of heterogeneity of cancer cell phenotype among patients, within patients and even within tumours, has created a growing need for personalised molecular imaging to support treatment decision. This article describes the evolution of the present vast range of radioactive probes – radiopharmaceuticals – leveraging a wide variety of chemical disciplines, over the last half century. These radiochemical innovations have been inspired by the need to support personalised medicine and also by the parallel development in development of new radionuclide imaging technologies – from gamma scintigraphy, through single photon emission tomography (SPECT), through the rise of clinical positron emission tomography (PET) and PET-CT, and perhaps in the future, by the advent of total body PET. Thus, in the interdisciplinary world of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, as quickly as radiochemistry solutions are developed to meet new needs in cancer imaging, new challenges emerge as developments in one contributing technology drive innovations in the others.
- Molecular imaging
- Total body PET