Hypoxia and neovascularization in breast cancer can now be identified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, according to a study recently published in Molecular Imaging and Biology.

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna were intrigued by a couple of recently developed imaging methods that successfully analyzed hypoxia in patients with brain cancer and wanted to see if the same technology could be used to detect the condition in breast cancer patients. Advanced quantitative blood oxygenation level dependent (qBOLD) imaging can evaluate tissue oxygen and measure tumor hypoxia. Vascular architectural mapping (VAM) calculates the diameter and architecture of microvascular vessel.

Both techniques were performed on a test group of 20 patients with benign and malignant breast tumors. The data was then used to generate “MRI biomarker maps of oxygen metabolism and neovascularization,” according to PhysicsWorld. Mammography and breast ultrasound indicated a suspicious lesion that was at least 10mm in all patients. Overall, 13 had invasive ductal carcinoma and seven had benign tumors.

The researchers then used MatLab software to assess metabolic rate of oxygen and mitochondrial oxygen tension and measure quantitative MRI biomarker maps of oxygen. The maps were used to evaluate tissue hypoxia and neovascularization. The MRI biomarker maps showed intra-tumoral spatial heterogeneity that featured a broad range of biomarker values. The malignant lesions had higher levels of microvessel density and metabolic rate of oxygen, less mitochondrial oxygen tension and lower microvessel type indicator.