J Nucl Med. 2013 Nov;54(11):1851-4
Ultrasound and combined optical and ultrasonic (photoacoustic) molecular imaging have shown great promise in the visualization and monitoring of cancer through imaging of vascular and extravascular molecular targets. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound with molecularly targeted microbubbles can detect early-stage cancer through the visualization of targets expressed on the angiogenic vasculature of tumors. Ultrasonic molecular imaging can be extended to the imaging of extravascular targets through use of nanoscale, phase-change droplets and photoacoustic imaging, which provides further molecular information on cancer given by the chemical composition of tissues and by targeted nanoparticles that can interact with extravascular tissues at the receptor level. A new generation of targeted contrast agents goes beyond merely increasing imaging signal at the site of target expression but shows activatable and differential contrast depending on their interactions with the tumor microenvironment. These innovations may further improve our ability to detect and characterize tumors. In this review, recent developments in acoustic and photoacoustic molecular imaging of cancer are discussed.