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Keywords:

  • tumor pH;
  • metastasis;
  • tumor microenvironment

Metastasis is a multistep process that culminates in the spread of cells from a primary tumor to a distant site or organs. For tumor cells to be able to metastasize, they have to locally invade through basement membrane into the lymphatic and the blood vasculatures. Eventually they extravasate from the blood and colonize in the secondary organ. This process involves multiple interactions between the tumor cells and their microenvironments. The microenvironment surrounding tumors has a significant impact on tumor development and progression. A key factor in the microenvironment is an acidic pH. The extracellular pH of solid tumors is more acidic in comparison to normal tissue as a consequence of high glycolysis and poor perfusion. It plays an important role in almost all steps of metastasis. The past decades have seen development of technologies to non-invasively measure intra- and/or extracellular pH. Most successful measurements are MR-based, and sensitivity and accuracy have dramatically improved. Quantitatively imaging the distribution of acidity helps us understand the role of the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression. The present review discusses different MR methods in measuring tumor pH along with emphasizing the importance of extracelluar tumor low pH on different steps of metastasis; more specifically focusing on epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and anti cancer immunity. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.