Molecular imaging is paving the way towards noninvasive detection, staging, and treatment follow-up of diseases such as cancer and inflammation-related conditions. Monoclonal antibodies have long been one of the staples of molecular imaging tracer design, although their long blood circulation and high nonspecific background limits their applicability. Nanobodies, unique antibody-binding fragments derived from camelid heavy-chain antibodies, have excellent properties for molecular imaging as they are able to specifically find their target early after injection, with little to no nonspecific background. Nanobody-based tracers using either nuclear or fluorescent labels have been heavily investigated preclinically and are currently making their way into the clinic. In this review, we will discuss different important factors in nanobody-tracer design, as well as the current state of the art regarding their application for nuclear and fluorescent imaging purposes. Furthermore, we will discuss how nanobodies can also be exploited for molecular therapy applications such as targeted radionuclide therapy and photodynamic therapy.
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