Molecular imaging is the direct or indirect noninvasive monitoring and recording of the spatial and temporal distribution of in vivo molecular, genetic, and/or cellular processes for biochemical, biological, diagnostic, or therapeutic applications. Molecular images that indicate the presence of malignancy can be acquired using optical, ultrasonic, radiologic, radionuclide, and magnetic resonance techniques. For the radiation oncology physicist in particular, these methods and their roles in molecular imaging of oncologic processes are reviewed with respect to their physical bases and imaging characteristics, including signal intensity, spatial scale, and spatial resolution. Relevant molecular terminology is defined as an educational assist. Current and future clinical applications in oncologic diagnosis and treatment are discussed. National initiatives for the development of basic science and clinical molecular imaging techniques and expertise are reviewed, illustrating research opportunities in as well as the importance of this growing field.