Evaluation of efficacy of anti-cancer therapy is currently performed by anatomical imaging (e.g., MRI, CT). Structural changes, if present, become apparent 1–2 months after start of therapy. Cancer patients thus bear the risk to receive an ineffective treatment, whilst clinical trials take a long time to prove therapy response. Both patient and pharmaceutical industry could therefore profit from an early assessment of efficacy of therapy. Diagnostic methods providing information on a functional level, rather than a structural, could present the solution. Recent technological advances in molecular imaging enable in vivo
imaging of biological processes. Since most anti-cancer therapies combat tumors by inducing apoptosis, imaging of apoptosis could offer an early assessment of efficacy of therapy. This review focuses on principles of and clinical experience with molecular imaging of apoptosis using Annexin A5, a widely accepted marker for apoptosis detection in vitro
and in vivo
in animal models. 99m
Tc-HYNIC-Annexin A5 in combination with SPECT has been probed in clinical studies to assess efficacy of chemo- and radiotherapy within 1–4 days after start of therapy. Annexin A5-based functional imaging of apoptosis shows promise to offer a personalized medicine approach, now primarily used in genome-based medicine, applicable to all cancer patients.