In solid tumors, hypoxia contributes significantly to radiation and chemotherapy resistance and to poor outcomes. The "gold standard" pO2 electrode measurements of hypoxia in vivo are unsatisfactory because they are invasive and have limited spatial coverage. Here, we present an approach to identify areas of tumor hypoxia using the signal versus time curves of dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) data as a surrogate marker of hypoxia. We apply an unsupervised pattern recognition (PR) technique to determine the differential signal versus time curves associated with different tumor microenvironmental characteristics in DCE-MRI data of a preclinical cancer model. Well-perfused tumor areas are identified by rapid contrast uptake followed by rapid washout; hypoxic areas, which are regions of reduced vascularization, are identified by delayed contrast signal buildup and washout; and necrotic areas exhibit slow or no contrast uptake and no discernible washout over the experimental observation. The strength of the PR concept is that it captures the pixel-enhancing behavior in its entirety- during both contrast agent uptake and washout-and thus, subtleties in the temporal behavior of contrast enhancement related to features of the tumor microenvironment (driven by vascular changes) may be detected. The assignment of the tumor compartments/microenvironment to well vascularized, hypoxic, and necrotic is validated by comparison to data previously obtained using complementary imaging modalities. The proposed novel analysis approach has the advantage that it can be readily translated to the clinic, as DCE-MRI is used routinely for the identification of tumors in patients, is widely available, and easily implemented on any clinical magnet.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research