Bone is among the most common locations of metastasis and therefore represents an important clinical target for diagnostic follow-up in cancer patients. In the pathogenesis of bone metastases, disseminated tumor cells proliferating in bone interact with the local microenvironment stimulating or inhibiting osteoclast and osteoblast activity. Non-invasive imaging methods monitor molecular, functional and morphologic changes in both compartments of these skeletal lesions - the bone and the soft tissue tumor compartment. In the bone compartment, morphologic information on skeletal destruction is assessed by computed tomography (CT) and radiography. Pathogenic processes of osteoclast and osteoblast activity, however, can be imaged using optical imaging, positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission CT (SPECT) and skeletal scintigraphy. Accordingly, conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT as well as diffusion- weighted MRI and optical imaging are used to assess morphologic aspects on the macroscopic and cellular level of the soft tissue tumor compartment. Imaging methods such as PET, MR spectroscopy, dynamic contrast-enhanced techniques and vessel size imaging further elucidate on pathogenic processes in this compartment including information on metabolism and vascularization. By monitoring these aspects in bone lesions, new insights in the pathogenesis of skeletal metastases can be gained. In translation to the clinical situation, these novel methods for the monitoring of bone metastases might be applied in patients to improve follow-up of these lesions, in particular after therapeutic intervention. This review summarizes established and experimental imaging techniques for the monitoring of tumor and bone cell activity including molecular, functional and morphological aspects in bone metastases.
Keywords: Bone metastases, functional imaging, molecular imaging, osteoblast, osteoclast, pathogenesis, PET, dynamic contrast-enhanced techniques, monitoring of bone metastases, pathogenic processes, treatment response, cancer patients, bone lesions, computed tomography (CT), single photon emission