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Current Molecular Imaging of Spinal Tumors in Clinical Practice.
Energy metabolism measurements in spinal cord tumors, as well as in osseous spinal tumors/metastasis in vivo, are rarely performed only with molecular imaging (MI) by positron emission tomography (PET). This imaging modality developed from a small number of basic clinical science investigations followed by subsequent work that influenced and enhanced the research of others. Apart from precise anatomical localization by coregistration of morphological imaging and quantification, the most intriguing advantage of this imaging is the opportunity to investigate the time course (dynamics) of disease-specific molecular events in the intact organism. Most importantly, MI represents one of the key technologies in translational molecular neuroscience research, helping to develop experimental protocols that may later be applied to human patients. PET may help monitor a patient at the vertebral level after surgery and during adjuvant treatment for recurrent or progressive disease. Common clinical indications for MI of primary or secondary CNS spinal tumors are: (i) tumor diagnosis, (ii) identification of the metabolically active tumor compartments (differentiation of viable tumor tissue from necrosis) and (iii) prediction of treatment response by measurement of tumor perfusion or ischemia. While spinal PET has been used under specific circumstances, a question remains as to whether the magnitude of biochemical alterations observed by MI in CNS tumors in general (specifically spinal tumors) can reveal any prognostic value with respect to survival. MI may be able to better identify early disease and to differentiate benign from malignant lesions than more traditional methods. Moreover, an adequate identification of treatment effectiveness may influence patient management. MI probes could be developed to image the function of targets without disturbing them or as treatment to modify the target's function. MI therefore closes the gap between in vitro and in vivo integrative biology of disease. At the spinal level, MI may help to detect progression or recurrence of metastatic disease after surgical treatment. In cases of nonsurgical treatments such as chemo-, hormone- or radiotherapy, it may better assess biological efficiency than conventional imaging modalities coupled with blood tumor markers. In fact, PET provides a unique possibility to correlate topography and specific metabolic activity, but it requires additional clinical and experimental experience and research to find new indications for primary or secondary spinal tumors.
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