Cyclooxygenase is an enzyme that catalyzes the first two steps in the biosynthesis of prostanoids. The constitutively expressed isoform COX-1 is regarded as a housekeeping enzyme that is responsible for the normal production of prostanoids. The inducible isoform COX-2, on the other hand, is transiently induced during inflammation by various stimuli. Increasing evidence has shown that COX-2 is not only implicated in inflammation but also in oncogenesis. Overexpression of COX-2 has been observed in a variety of tumors. Prostaglandins produced by COX-2 affect important processes in carcinogenesis, including angiogenesis, tissue invasion, metastasis and apoptosis. Several studies indicate that COX-2 is also involved in neurological disorders, like Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease and ischemia, where COX-2 overexpression leads to neurotoxicity. Many aspects of the role of COX-2 in (patho)physiology, however, remain unclear. At present, COX-2 expression is determined by ex vivo laboratory analysis, but the results could be greatly affected by the instability of COX-2 mRNA and protein and by sampling errors. A noninvasive imaging method to monitor COX-2 expression, like positron emission tomography (PET) or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), could overcome this complication and may provide novel insights in the role of COX-2, especially in neurological disorders where repetitive sampling is not possible. Such a technique could also be applied to the in vivo evaluation of novel selective COX-2 inhibitors and in dose-escalation studies. This review will present an overview of the developments in the recently emerging field of COX-2 imaging.
Keywords: Cyclooxygenase, Imaging, PET, Prostaglandin, Inflammation, Cancer, Neurodegenerative diseases, Ischemia