Affiliation: Image Sciences Institute,Dept. of Radiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, room E 02.5.57,Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Noninvasive imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) play an increasingly important role in the diagnostic workup and treatment of cancerous disease. In this context, a distinct trend can be observed towards the development of contrast agents and radiopharmaceuticals that open up perspectives on a multimodality imaging approach, involving all three aforementioned techniques. To promote insight into the potentialities of such an approach, we prepared an overview of the strengths and limitations of the various imaging techniques, in particular with regard to their capability to quantify the spatial distribution of a multimodal diagnostic agent. To accomplish this task, we used a two-step approach. In the first step, we examined the situation for a particular therapeutic anti-cancer agent with multimodal imaging opportunities, viz. holmium- loaded microspheres (HoMS). Physical phantom experiments were performed to enable a comparative evaluation of the three modalities assuming the use of standard equipment, standard clinical scan protocols, and signal-known-exactly conditions. These phantom data were then analyzed so as to obtain first order estimates of the sensitivity and detection limits of MRI, CT and SPECT for HoMS. In the second step, the results for HoMS were taken as a starting point for a discussion of the factors affecting the sensitivity and detection limits of MRI, CT and SPECT for multimodal agents in general. In this, emphasis was put on the factors that must be taken into account when extrapolating the findings for HoMS to other diagnostic tasks, other contrast agents, other experimental conditions, and other scan protocols.