Three-Dimensional Ultrasound Molecular Imaging of Angiogenesis in Colon Cancer Using a Clinical Matrix Array Ultrasound Transducer

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ObjectivesWe sought to assess the feasibility and reproducibility of 3-dimensional ultrasound molecular imaging (USMI) of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) expression in tumor angiogenesis using a clinical matrix array transducer and a clinical grade VEGFR2-targeted contrast agent in a murine model of human colon cancer.Materials and MethodsAnimal studies were approved by the Institutional Administrative Panel on Laboratory Animal Care. Mice with human colon cancer xenografts (n = 33) were imaged with a clinical ultrasound system and transducer (Philips iU22; X6-1) after intravenous injection of either clinical grade VEGFR2-targeted microbubbles or nontargeted control microbubbles. Nineteen mice were scanned twice to assess imaging reproducibility. Fourteen mice were scanned both before and 24 hours after treatment with either bevacizumab (n = 7) or saline only (n = 7). Three-dimensional USMI data sets were retrospectively reconstructed into multiple consecutive 1-mm–thick USMI data sets to simulate 2-dimensional imaging. Vascular VEGFR2 expression was assessed ex vivo using immunofluorescence.ResultsThree-dimensional USMI was highly reproducible using both VEGFR2-targeted microbubbles and nontargeted control microbubbles (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.83). The VEGFR2-targeted USMI signal significantly (P = 0.02) decreased by 57% after antiangiogenic treatment compared with the control group, which correlated well with ex vivo VEGFR2 expression on immunofluorescence (ρ = 0.93, P = 0.003). If only central 1-mm tumor planes were analyzed to assess antiangiogenic treatment response, the USMI signal change was significantly (P = 0.006) overestimated by an average of 27% (range, 2%–73%) compared with 3-dimensional USMI.ConclusionsThree-dimensional USMI is feasible and highly reproducible and allows accurate assessment and monitoring of VEGFR2 expression in tumor angiogenesis in a murine model of human colon cancer.

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