The tumor microenvironment (TME) surrounding tumor cells is a complex and highly dynamic system that promotes tumorigenesis. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are key elements in TME playing a pivotal role in cancer cells’ proliferation and metastatic spreading. Considering the high expression of the fibroblast activation protein (FAP) on cell membrane, CAFs emerged as appealing TME targets, namely for molecular imaging, leading to a pan-tumoral approach. Therefore, FAP inhibitors (FAPis) have been recently developed for PET imaging and radioligand therapy, exploring the clinical application in different tumor sub-types. The present review aimed to describe recent developments on radiolabeled FAP inhibitors and evaluate the possible translation of this pan-tumoral approach in clinical practice.
At present, the application of FAPi-PET has been explored mainly in single-center studies, generally performed in small and heterogeneous cohorts of oncological patients. However, preliminary results were promising, in particular in low FDG-avid tumors such as primary liver and gastro-entero-pancreatic cancer, or in regions with unfavorable tumor-to-background ratio at FDG-PET/CT (i.e. brain), as well as in radiotherapy planning of head and neck tumors. Further promising results have been obtained in the detection of peritoneal carcinomatosis, especially in ovarian and gastric cancer. Data regarding the theranostics approach are still limited at presents, and definitive conclusion about its efficacy cannot be drawn at present. Nevertheless, the use of FAPi-based radio-ligand to treat the TME has been evaluated in first-in-human studies and appears feasible.
Although the pan-tumoral approach in molecular imaging showed promising results, its real impact in day-to-day clinical practice has yet to be confirmed, and multi-center, prospective studies powered for efficacy are needed.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.