Review Article

MC1R and melanin-based molecular probes for theranostic of melanoma and beyond

Hui Shi1, Zhen Cheng1,2,3
1 State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Molecular Imaging Center, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China
2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 19A Yuquan Road, Beijing 100049, China
3 Shandong Laboratory of Yantai Drug Discovery, Bohai Rim Advanced Research Institute for Drug Discovery, Yantai 264117, China
Correspondence to: Zhen Cheng:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-022-00970-y
Received: 19 June 2022
Accepted: 22 July 2022
Advance online: 25 August 2022


Malignant melanoma is accounting for most of skin cancer-associated mortality. The incidence of melanoma increased every year worldwide especially in western countries. Treatment efficiency is highly related to the stage of melanoma. Therefore, accurate staging and restaging play a pivotal role in the management of melanoma patients. Though 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron-emission tomography (PET) has been widely used in imaging of tumor metastases, novel radioactive probes for specific targeted imaging of both primary and metastasized melanoma are still desired. Melanocortin receptor 1 (MC1R) and melanin are two promising biomarkers specifically for melanoma, and numerous research groups including us have been actively developing a plethora of radioactive probes based on targeting of MC1R or melanin for over two decades. In this review, some of the MC1R- targeted tracers and melanin-associated molecular imaging probes developed in our research and others have been briefly summarized, and it provides a quick glance of melanoma-targeted probe design and may contribute to further developing novel molecular probes for cancer theranostics.
Keywords: melanoma; molecular probes; radiotracers; MC1R; melanin

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