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Keywords:

  • phospholipid metabolism;
  • breast cancer;
  • choline;
  • 31P MRS;
  • energy metabolism;
  • 7 T

This study demonstrates the feasibility of the noninvasive determination of important biomarkers of human (breast) tumor metabolism using high-field (7-T) MRI and MRS. 31P MRSI at this field strength was used to provide a direct method for the in vivo detection and quantification of endogenous biomarkers. These encompass phospholipid metabolism, phosphate energy metabolism and intracellular pH. A double-tuned, dual-element transceiver was designed with focused radiofrequency fields for unilateral breast imaging and spectroscopy tuned for optimized sensitivity at 7 T. T1-weighted three-dimensional MRI and 1H MRS were applied for the localization and quantification of total choline compounds. 31P MRSI was obtained within 20 min per subject and mapped in three dimensions over the breast with pixel volumes of 10 mL. The feasibility of monitoring in vivo metabolism was demonstrated in two patients with breast cancer during neoadjuvant chemotherapy, validated by ex vivo high-resolution magic angle spinning NMR and compared with data from an age-matched healthy volunteer. Concentrations of total choline down to 0.4 mM could be detected in the human breast in vivo. Levels of adenosine and other nucleoside triphosphates, inorganic phosphate, phosphocholine, phosphoethanolamine and their glycerol diesters detected in glandular tissue, as well as in tumor, were mapped over the entire breast. Altered levels of these compounds were observed in patients compared with an age-matched healthy volunteer; modulation of these levels occurred in breast tumors during neoadjuvant chemotherapy. To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive MRI and MRS study in patients with breast cancer, which reveals detailed information on the morphology and phospholipid metabolism from volumes as small as 10 mL. This endogenous metabolic information may provide a new method for the noninvasive assessment of prognostic and predictive biomarkers in breast cancer treatment. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.