Over the last 20 years, intensive investigation and multiple clinical successes targeting protein kinases, mostly for cancer treatment, have identified small molecule kinase inhibitors as a prominent therapeutic class. In the course of those investigations, radiolabeled kinase inhibitors for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging have been synthesized and evaluated as diagnostic imaging probes for cancer characterization. Given that inhibitor coverage of the kinome is continuously expanding, in vivo
PET imaging will likely find increasing applications for therapy monitoring and receptor density studies both in- and outside of oncological conditions. Early investigated radiolabeled inhibitors, which are mostly based on clinically approved tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) isotopologues, have now entered clinical trials. Novel radioligands for cancer and PET neuroimaging originating from novel but relevant target kinases are currently being explored in preclinical studies. This article reviews the literature involving radiotracer design, radiochemistry approaches, biological tracer evaluation and nuclear imaging results of radiolabeled kinase inhibitors for PET reported between 2010 and mid-2015. Aspects regarding the usefulness of pursuing selective vs.
promiscuous inhibitor scaffolds and the inherent challenges associated with intracellular enzyme imaging will be discussed.
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