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Neoplasia. 2008 Mar;10(3):207-16.

Cellular magnetic resonance imaging: in vivo imaging of melanoma cells in lymph nodes of mice.

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Imaging Research Laboratories, Robarts Research Institute, London, ON, Canada.


Metastasis is responsible for most deaths due to malignant melanoma. The clinical significance of micrometastases in the lymph is a hotly debated topic, but an improved understanding of the lymphatic spread of cancer remains important for improving cancer survival. Cellular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a newly emerging field of imaging research that is expected to have a large impact on cancer research. In this study, we demonstrate the cellular MRI technology required to reliably image the lymphatic system in mice and to detect iron-labeled metastatic melanoma cells within the mouse lymph nodes. Melanoma cells were implanted directly into the inguinal lymph nodes in mice, and micro-MRI was performed using a customized 1.5-T clinical MRI system. We show cell detection of as few as 100 iron-labeled cells within the lymph node, with injections of larger cell numbers producing increasingly obvious regions of signal void. In addition, we show that cellular MRI allows monitoring of the fate of these cells over time as they develop into intranodal tumors. This technology will allow noninvasive investigations of cellular events in cancer metastasis within an entire animal and will facilitate progress in understanding the mechanisms of metastasis within the lymphatic system.

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