Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology 8, 677-688 (November 2011) | doi:10.1038/nrclinonc.2011.141
Cell-based therapies, such as adoptive immunotherapy and stem-cell therapy, have received considerable attention as novel therapeutics in oncological research and clinical practice. The development of effective therapeutic strategies using tumor-targeted cells requires the ability to determine in vivo the location, distribution, and long-term viability of the therapeutic cell populations as well as their biological fate with respect to cell activation and differentiation. In conjunction with various noninvasive imaging modalities, cell-labeling methods, such as exogenous labeling or transfection with a reporter gene, allow visualization of labeled cells in vivo in real time, as well as monitoring and quantifying cell accumulation and function. Such cell-tracking methods also have an important role in basic cancer research, where they serve to elucidate novel biological mechanisms. In this Review, we describe the basic principles of cell-tracking methods, explain various approaches to cell tracking, and highlight recent examples for the application of such methods in animals and humans