Journal article Open Access

TSPO expression in brain tumours: is TSPO a target for brain tumour imaging?

Roncaroli, Federico; Su, Zhangjie; Herholz, Karl; Gerhard, Alexander; Turkheimer, Federico E

Positron emission tomography (PET) alone or in combination with MRI is increasingly assuming a central role in the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for brain tumours with the aim of addressing tumour heterogeneity, assisting in patient stratification, and contributing to predicting treatment response. The 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) is expressed in high-grade gliomas, while its expression is comparatively low in normal brain. In addition, the evidence of elevated TSPO in neoplastic cells has led to studies investigating TSPO as a transporter of anticancer drugs for brain delivery and a
selective target for tumour tissue. The TSPO therefore represents an ideal candidate for molecular imaging studies. Knowledge of the biology of TSPO in normal brain
cells, in-depth understanding of TSPO functions and biodistribution in neoplastic cells, accurate methods for quantification of uptake of TSPO tracers and pharmacokinetic data regarding TSPO-targeted drugs are required before introducing TSPO PET and TSPO-targeted treatment in clinical practice. In this review, we will discuss the impact of preclinical PET studies and the application of
TSPO imaging in human brain tumours, the advantages and disadvantages of TSPO imaging compared to other imaging modalities and other PET tracers, and pathology
studies on the extent and distribution of TSPO in gliomas. The suitability of TSPO as molecular target for treatment of brain tumours will also be the appraised.

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