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NMR Biomed. 2011 Aug;24(7):880-7. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1643. Epub 2011 Jan 25.

In vivo MRI of early stage mammary cancers and the normal mouse mammary gland.

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Department of Radiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.


Since the advent of screening mammography, approximately one-quarter of newly diagnosed breast cancers are at the earliest preinvasive stage of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Concomitant with this improvement in early detection has been a growing clinical concern that distinguishing aggressive from indolent DCIS is necessary to optimize patient management. Genetically engineered mouse models offer an appealing experimental framework in which to investigate factors that influence and predict progression of preinvasive neoplasias. Because of the small size of early stage carcinomas in mice, high-resolution imaging techniques are required to effectively observe longitudinal progression. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility of MRI for assessment of in situ mammary neoplasias and early invasive mammary cancers that stochastically arise in mammary glands of C3(1) SV40 Tag transgenic mice. Additionally, images of normal mammary glands from wild-type FVB/N mice were acquired and compared with those from transgenic mice. Sixteen mice underwent MR examinations employing axial two-dimensional multi-slice gradient recalled echo scans (TR/TE =∼1000/5.5 ms) with fat suppression in a two-step process targeting both the upper and lower mammary glands. MRI successfully detected in situ and early invasive neoplasias in transgenic mice with high sensitivity and specificity. The average signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of in situ lesions on fat-suppressed high-resolution T(1) -weighted images was 22.9, which was lower than that of invasive tumors, lymph nodes and muscle (average SNR of 29.5-34.9, p < 0.0001) but significantly higher than that of normal mammary tissue (average SNR = 5.5, p < 0.0001). Evaluation of wild-type mammary glands revealed no cancerous or benign lesions, and comparable image contrast characteristics (average SNR = 5.2) as compared with normal tissue areas of transgenic mice. This present study demonstrates that MRI is an excellent candidate for performing longitudinal assessment of early stage mammary cancer disease progression and response to therapy in the transgenic model system.

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