The intersection of immunotherapy and radiation oncology is a rapidly evolving area of preclinical and clinical investigation. The strategy of combining radiation and immunotherapy to enhance local and systemic antitumor immune responses is intriguing yet largely unproven in the clinical setting because the mechanisms of synergy and the determinants of therapeutic response remain undefined. In recent years, several noninvasive molecular imaging approaches have emerged as a platform to interrogate the tumor immune microenvironment. These tools have the potential to serve as robust biomarkers for cancer immunotherapy and may hold several advantages over conventional anatomic imaging modalities and contemporary invasive tissue acquisition techniques. Given the key and expanding role of precision imaging in radiation oncology for patient selection, target delineation, image guided treatment delivery, and response assessment, noninvasive molecular-specific imaging may be uniquely suited to evaluate radiation/immunotherapy combinations. Herein, we describe several experimental imaging-based strategies that are currently being explored to characterize in vivo immune responses, and we review a growing body of preclinical data and nascent clinical experience with immuno-positron emission tomography molecular imaging as a putative biomarker for cancer immunotherapy. Finally, we discuss practical considerations for clinical translation to implement noninvasive molecular imaging of immune checkpoint molecules, immune cells, or associated elements of the antitumor immune response with a specific emphasis on its potential application at the interface of radiation oncology and immuno-oncology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging