MRI of tumor angiogenesis



Angiogenesis has long been established as a key element in the pathophysiology of tumor growth and metastasis. Increasingly, new molecularly targeted antiangiogenic drugs are being developed in the fight against cancer. These drugs bring with them a need for an accurate means of diagnosing tumor angiogenesis and monitoring response to treatment. Imaging techniques can offer this in a noninvasive way, while also providing functional information about the tumor. Among the many clinical imaging techniques available, MRI alone can provide relatively good spatial resolution and specificity, without ionizing radiation and with limited side effects. Arterial spin labeling (ASL) and blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) imaging techniques can be employed to confer indirect measures of angiogenesis, such as blood flow and blood volume, without the need for external contrast agents. Dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE)-MRI is rapidly emerging as a standard method for directly measuring angiogenesis during angiogenesis-inhibitor drug trials. As macromolecular MR contrast agents become available, they will inevitably be utilized in the assessment of tumor perfusion and vessel permeability. Meanwhile, technological advances have made imaging at a molecular level a possibility. They have brought the potential to directly target MR contrast agents to markers of angiogenesis, such as the αvβ3 integrin. Before this is used clinically, however, substantial gains in sensitivity brought about by improved coils, pulse sequences, and contrast agents will be needed. Herein we discuss the techniques currently available for MRI of angiogenesis, along with their respective advantages and disadvantages, and what the future holds for this evolving field of imaging. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.