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World J Radiol. Jul 28, 2014; 6(7): 459-470
Published online Jul 28, 2014. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v6.i7.459
Echographic imaging of tumoral cells through novel nanosystems for image diagnosis
Marco Di Paola, Fernanda Chiriacò, Giulia Soloperto, Francesco Conversano, Sergio Casciaro
Marco Di Paola, Fernanda Chiriacò, Giulia Soloperto, Francesco Conversano, Sergio Casciaro, Nanoimaging LAB and Bioengineering Division of the National Research Council, Institute of Clinical Physiology, 73100 Lecce, Italy
Sergio Casciaro, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Fisiologia Clinica (CNR-IFC) c/o Campus Ecotekne, 73100 Lecce, Italy
Author contributions: All the authors were involved in the design and writing the manuscript; Casciaro S conceived and coordinated the scientific work for the manuscript.
Supported by Bando Laboratori, DD MIUR 14.5.2005 n.602/Ric/2005 of the Italian Ministry of Instruction and Research, No. DM18604; by FESR P.O. Apulia Region 2007-2013, Action 1.2.4, No. 3Q5AX31; and by the Progetto Bandiera NANOMAX ENCODER
Correspondence to: Dr. Sergio Casciaro, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Fisiologia Clinica (CNR-IFC) c/o Campus Ecotekne, via per Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Italy.
Telephone: +39-0832-422310 Fax: +39-0832-422341
Received: January 29, 2014
Revised: April 25, 2014
Accepted: May 16, 2014
Published online: July 28, 2014

Since the recognition of disease molecular basis, it has become clear that the keystone moments of medical practice, namely early diagnosis, appropriate therapeutic treatment and patient follow-up, must be approached at a molecular level. These objectives will be in the near future more effectively achievable thanks to the impressive developments in nanotechnologies and their applications to the biomedical field, starting-up the nanomedicine era. The continuous advances in the development of biocompatible smart nanomaterials, in particular, will be crucial in several aspects of medicine. In fact, the possibility of manufacturing nanoparticle contrast agents that can be selectively targeted to specific pathological cells has extended molecular imaging applications to non-ionizing techniques and, at the same time, has made reachable the perspective of combining highly accurate diagnoses and personalized therapies in a single theranostic intervention. Main developing applications of nanosized theranostic agents include targeted molecular imaging, controlled drug release, therapeutic monitoring, guidance of radiation-based treatments and surgical interventions. Here we will review the most recent findings in nanoparticles contrast agents and their applications in the field of cancer molecular imaging employing non-ionizing techniques and disease-specific contrast agents, with special focus on recent findings on those nanomaterials particularly promising for ultrasound molecular imaging and simultaneous treatment of cancer.

Keywords: Ultrasound, Molecular imaging, Nanoparticles contrast agents, Nanomedicine, Theranostics, Early diagnosis, Multimodal medical imaging, Cell targeting, Drug delivery

Core tip: The development of novel nanomaterials specifically targeting diseased cells has made possible their employment as nanosized contrast agents also for non-ionizing molecular imaging techniques namely, magnetic resonance, ultrasound and optical imaging. Among them, ultrasound imaging might represent the best choice because of its low cost, ease of use and wide availability in clinical practice. Unfortunately, their actual employment in molecular imaging is limited due to their low tissue contrast discrimination. Hence, the described development of novel ultrasound targeted contrast agent may play a crucial role for their use in clinical molecular imaging.