PURPOSE: To develop a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach for the noninvasive assessment of hypoxia and neovascularization in breast tumors.
PROCEDURES: In this IRB-approved prospective study, 20 patients with suspicious breast lesions (BI-RADS 4/5) underwent multiparametric breast MRI including quantitative BOLD (qBOLD) and vascular architecture mapping (VAM). Custom-made in-house MatLab software was used for qBOLD and VAM data postprocessing and calculation of quantitative MRI biomarker maps of oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), metabolic rate of oxygen (MRO2), and mitochondrial oxygen tension (mitoPO2) to measure tissue hypoxia and neovascularization including vascular architecture including microvessel radius (VSI), density (MVD), and type (MTI). Histopathology was used as standard of reference. Appropriate statistics were performed to assess and compare correlations between MRI biomarkers for hypoxia and neovascularization.
RESULTS: qBOLD and VAM data with good quality were obtained from all patients with 13 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and 7 benign breast tumors with a lesion diameter of at least 10 mm in all spatial directions. MRI biomarker maps of oxygen metabolism and neovascularization demonstrated intratumoral spatial heterogeneity with a broad range of biomarker values. Bulk tumor neovasculature consisted of draining venous microvasculature with slow flowing blood. High OEF and low mitoPO2 were associated with low MVD and vice versa. The heterogeneous pattern of MRO2 values showed spatial congruence with VSI. IDCs showed significantly higher MRO2 (P = 0.007), lower mitoPO2 (P = 0.021), higher MVD (P = 0.005), and lower (i.e., more pathologic) MTI (P = 0.001) compared with benign breast tumors. These results indicate that IDCs consume more oxygen and are more hypoxic and neovascularized than benign tumors.
CONCLUSIONS: We developed a novel MRI approach for the noninvasive assessment of hypoxia and neovascularization in benign and malignant breast tumors that can be easily integrated in a diagnostic MRI protocol and provides insight into intratumoral heterogeneity.