Biotherapies involve the utilization of antibodies, genetically modified viruses, bacteria or cells for therapeutic purposes. Molecular imaging has the potential to provide unique information that will guarantee their biosafety in humans and provide a rationale for the future development of new generations of reagents. In this context, non-invasive imaging of gene expression is an attractive prospect, allowing precise, spacio-temporal measurements of gene expression in longitudinal studies involving gene transfer vectors. With the emergence of cell therapies in regenerative medicine, it is also possible to track cells injected into subjects. In this context, the Na/I symporter (NIS) has been used in preclinical studies. Associated with a relevant radiotracer (123I-, 124I-, 99mTcO4-), NIS can be used to monitor gene transfer and the spread of selectively replicative viruses in tumours as well as in cells with a therapeutic potential. In addition to its imaging potential, NIS can be used as a therapeutic transgene through its ability to concentrate therapeutic doses of radionuclides in target cells. This dual property has applications in cancer treatment and could also be used to eradicate cells with therapeutic potential in the case of adverse events. Through experience acquired in preclinical studies, we can expect that non-invasive molecular imaging using NIS as a transgene will be pivotal for monitoring in vivo the exact distribution and pharmacodynamics of gene expression in a precise and quantitative way. This review highlights the applications of NIS in biotherapy, with a particular emphasis on image-guided radiotherapy, monitoring of gene and vector biodistribution and trafficking of stem cells.
This article is part of a themed section on Imaging in Pharmacology. To view the editorial for this themed section visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00685.x