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NMR Biomed. 2011 Dec;24(10):1380-91. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1701. Epub 2011 May 23.

Imaging the extracellular pH of tumors by MRI after injection of a single cocktail of T1 and T2 contrast agents.

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  • 1H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.


The extracellular pH (pH(e) ) of solid tumors is acidic, and there is evidence that an acidic pH(e) is related to invasiveness. Herein, we describe an MRI single-infusion method to measure pH(e) in gliomas using a cocktail of contrast agents (CAs). The cocktail contained gadolinium-1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetraaminophosphonate (GdDOTA-4AmP) and dysprosium-1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-N,N',N'',N'''-tetrakis(methylenephosphonic acid) (DyDOTP), whose effects on relaxation are sensitive and insensitive to pH, respectively. The Gd-CA dominated the spin-lattice relaxivity ΔR(1) , whereas the Dy-CA dominated the spin-spin relaxivity ΔR(2)*. The ΔR(2)* effects were used to determine the pixel-wise concentration of [Dy] which, in turn, was used to calculate a value for [Gd] concentration. This value was used to convert ΔR(1) values to the molar relaxivity Δr(1) and, hence, pH(e) maps. The development of the method involved in vivo calibration and measurements in a rat brain glioma model. The calibration phase consisted of determining a quantitative relationship between ΔR(1) and ΔR(2)* induced by the two pH-independent CAs, gadolinium-diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (GdDTPA) and DyDOTP, using echo planar spectroscopic imaging (EPSI) and T(1) -weighted images. The intensities and linewidths of the water peaks in EPSI images were affected by CA and were used to follow the pharmacokinetics. These data showed a linear relationship between inner- and outer-sphere relaxation rate constants that were used for CA concentration determination. Nonlinearity in the slope of the relationship was observed and ascribed to variations in vascular permeability. In the pH(e) measurement phase, GdDOTA-4AmP was infused instead of GdDTPA, and relaxivities were obtained through the combination of interleaved T(1) -weighted images (R(1) ) and EPSI for ΔR(2)*. The resulting r(1) values yielded pH(e) maps with high spatial resolution.

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