The tumor microenvironment is distinct from normal tissue as a result of abnormal vascular network characterized by hypoxia, low pH, high interstitial fluid pressure and elevated glycolytic activity. This poses a barrier to treatments including radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Imaging methods which can characterize such features non-invasively and repeatedly will be of significant value in planning treatment as well as monitoring response to treatment. The three techniques based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are reviewed here. Tumor pO2 can be measured by two MRI methods requiring an exogenous contrast agent: electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI) and Overhauser magnetic resonance imaging (OMRI). Tumor metabolic profile can be assessed by a third method, hyperpolarized metabolic MR, based on injection of hyperpolarized biological molecules labeled with 13C or 15N and MR spectroscopic imaging. Imaging pO2 in tumors is now a robust pre-clinical imaging modality with potential for implementation clinically. Pre-clinical studies and an initial clinical study with hyperpolarized metabolic MR have been successful and suggest that the method may be part of image-guided radiotherapy to select patients for tailored individual treatment regimens.
Acta Oncologica, 2013, Vol 52, Issue 7, p. 1248-1256