Department of Tumor Immunology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, The Netherlands.
Cellular therapy promises to revolutionize medicine, by restoring tissue and organ function, and combating key disorders including cancer. As with all major developments, new tools must be introduced to allow optimization. For cell therapy, the key tool is in vivo imaging for real time assessment of parameters such as cell localization, numbers and viability. Such data is critical to modulate and tailor the therapy for each patient. In this review, we discuss recent work in the field of imaging cell therapies in the clinic, including preclinical work where clinical examples are not yet available. Clinical trials in which transferred cells were imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear scintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and positron emission tomography (PET) are evaluated from an imaging perspective. Preclinical cell tracking studies that focus on fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging are excluded, as these modalities are generally not applicable to clinical cell tracking. In this review, we assess the advantages and drawbacks of the various imaging techniques available, focusing on immune cells, particularly dendritic cells. Both strategies of prelabeling cells before transplant and the use of an injectable label to target cells in situ are covered. Finally, we discuss future developments, including the emergence of multimodal imaging technology for cell tracking from the preclinical to the clinical realm.