Optical imaging is an emerging strategy for in vitro and in vivo visualization of the molecular mechanisms of cancer over time. An increasing number of optical imaging contrast agents and techniques have been developed in recent years specifically for bone research and skeletal metastases. Visualizing molecular processes in relation to bone remodeling in metastasized cancers provides valuable information for understanding disease mechanisms and monitoring expression of primary molecular targets and therapeutic efficacy. This review is intended to provide an overview of tumor-specific and non-specific contrast agents in the first near-infrared window (NIR-I) window from 650 nm to 950 nm that can be used to study functional and structural aspects of skeletal remodeling of cancer in preclinical animal models. Near-infrared (NIR) optical imaging techniques, specifically NIR spectroscopy and photoacoustic imaging, and their use in skeletal metastases will also be discussed. Perspectives on the promises and challenges facing this exciting field are then given.
- Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence
- Photoacoustic tomography (PAT)