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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 420364, 13 pages
Review Article

Molecular Imaging in Tracking Tumor Stem-Like Cells

Tian Xia,1 Han Jiang,1,2,3,4 Chenrui Li,5 Mei Tian,1,2,3,4 and Hong Zhang1,2,3,4

1Department of Nuclear Medicine, Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, School of Medicine, 88 Jiefang Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310009, China
2Zhejiang University Medical PET Center, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310009, China
3Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310009, China
4Key Laboratory of Medical Molecular Imaging of Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou 310009, China
5The School of Pharmacy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Received 27 December 2011; Accepted 10 February 2012

Academic Editor: Enzhong Li

Copyright © 2012 Tian Xia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cancer remains a major public health problem in many countries. It was found to contain a subset of cancer stem cells (CSCs) that are capable of proliferation and self-renewal, and differentiation into various types of cancer cells. CSCs often display characteristics of chemotherapy resistance and radiotherapy resistance. Numerous putative biomarkers of CSCs are currently identified including CD133, CD44, CD24, ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase), and ABCG2. Interestingly, no single marker is exclusively expressed by CSCs. Thus, the various combinations of different biomarkers will be possible to identify CSCs, and considerable work is being done to recognize new ones. In order to demonstrate the mechanisms of resistance and response to therapy and predict the outcome as well as prognosis, the ways to track and identify CSCs will be extremely important. The technologies of molecular imaging will reveal mechanisms of cancer progression and provide visual targets for novel therapeutics. Limited studies were investigated on the detection of various types of CSCs by molecular imaging. Although the tracking of circulating CSCs is still hampered by technological challenges, personalized diagnosis and therapies of cancers are expected to be established based on increased understanding of molecular imaging of cancer stem-like cells biomarkers.