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Table 1 Functional and molecular imaging methods

From: Molecular imaging as a tool for translating breast cancer science




Magnetic resonance

   Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

High spatial resolution and image detail

Confined space


Increasing range of contrast agents under development

Contrast design limited by need for magnetic atom

   Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)

Can measure wide range of molecules

Limited spatial resolution


No contrast needed

Challenging to get high quality spectra in routine imaging

Radionuclide imaging

   Positron emission tomography (PET)

Wide range of molecular imaging probes

Limited spatial resolution


Tracer imaging without perturbing biological system

Some radiation exposure

   Single photon emission tomography (SPECT)

Similar to PET

Less quantitatively accurate than PET


Probes more widely available


Ultrasound, especially with contrast enhancement

Highly portable, inexpensive

Operator dependence


Molecular microbubble contrast agents possible

Contrast agents confined to vascular space thus far

Optical imaging

Highly portable, inexpensive

Limited penetration from surface, limited to relatively superficial sites


High spatial resolution possible