Functional imaging of tumor vasculature using iodine and gadolinium-based nanoparticle contrast agents: a comparison of spectral micro-CT using energy integrating and photon counting detectors.
Advances in computed tomography (CT) hardware have propelled the development of novel CT contrast agents. In particular, the spectral capabilities of x-ray CT can facilitate simultaneous imaging of multiple contrast agents. This approach is particularly useful for functional imaging of solid tumors by simultaneous visualization of multiple targets or architectural features that govern cancer development and progression. Nanoparticles are a promising platform for contrast agent development. While several novel imaging moieties based on high atomic number elements are being explored, iodine (I) and gadolinium (Gd) are particularly attractive because of their existing approval for clinical use. In this work, we investigate the in vivo discrimination of I and Gd nanoparticle contrast agents using both dual energy micro-CT with energy integrating detectors (DE-EID) and photon counting detector (PCD)-based spectral micro-CT. Simulations and phantom experiments were performed using varying concentrations of I and Gd to determine the imaging performance with optimized acquisition parameters. Quantitative spectral micro-CT imaging using liposomal-iodine (Lip-I) and liposomal-Gd (Lip-Gd) nanoparticle contrast agents was performed in sarcoma bearing mice for anatomical and functional imaging of tumor vasculature. Iterative reconstruction provided high sensitivity to detect and discriminate relatively low I and Gd concentrations. According to the Rose criterion applied to the experimental results, the detectability limits for I and Gd were approximately 2.5 mg ml-1 for both DE-EID CT and PCD micro-CT, even if the radiation dose was approximately 3.8 times lower with PCD micro-CT. The material concentration maps confirmed expected biodistributions of contrast agents in the blood, liver, spleen and kidneys. The PCD provided lower background signal and better simultaneous visualization of tumor vasculature and intratumoral distribution patterns of nanoparticle contrast agent compared to DE-EID decompositions. Preclinical spectral CT systems such as this could be useful for functional characterization of solid tumors, simultaneous quantitative imaging of multiple targets and for identifying clinically-relevant applications that benefit from the use of spectral imaging. Additionally, it could aid in the development nanoparticles that show promise in the developing field of cancer theranostics (therapy and diagnostics) by measuring vascular tumor biomarkers such as fractional blood volume and the delivery of liposomal chemotherapeutics.
Badea, CT; Clark, DP; Holbrook, M; Srivastava, M; Mowery, Y; Ghaghada, KB
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