FA Howe, SP Robinson, DJ McIntyre, M Stubbs, JR Griffiths
The sensitivity of blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast techniques to changes to tumour deoxyhaemoglobin concentration is of relevance to many strategies in cancer treatments. In the context of tumour studies, which frequently involve the use of agents to modify blood flow, there are underlying physiological changes different to those of BOLD in the brain. Hence we use the term, flow and oxygenation dependent (FLOOD) contrast, to emphasize this difference and the importance of flow effects. We have measured the R(2)* changes in a prolactinoma tumour model for a variety of vasoactive challenges [carbogen, 100% oxygen and 100% nitrogen as different breathing gases, and administration of tumour blood flow modifiers such as calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP), hydralazine and nicotinamide]. In addition we have measured other relevant physiological parameters, such as bioenergetic status from (31)P MRS, and blood pH and glucose, that may change during a vasoactive challenge. Here we discuss how they relate to our understanding of FLOOD contrast in tumours. We frequently observe R(2)* changes that match the expected action of the vascular stimulus: R(2)* decreases with agents expected to improve tumour oxygenation and blood flow, and increases with agents designed to increase tumour hypoxia. Unlike most normal tissues, tumours have a chaotic and poorly regulated blood supply, and a mix of glycolytic and oxidative metabolism; thus the response to a vasoactive challenge is not predictable. Changes in blood volume can counteract the effect of blood oxygenation changes, and changes in blood pH and glucose levels can alter oxygen extraction. This can lead to R(2)* changes that are smaller or the reverse of those expected. To properly interpret FLOOD contrast changes these effects must be accounted for.