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PLOS ONE  2012 

Longitudinal Imaging Studies of Tumor Microenvironment in Mice Treated with the mTOR Inhibitor Rapamycin

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049456

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Rapamycin is an allosteric inhibitor of mammalian target of rapamycin, and inhibits tumor growth and angiogenesis. Recent studies suggested a possibility that rapamycin renormalizes aberrant tumor vasculature and improves tumor oxygenation. The longitudinal effects of rapamycin on angiogenesis and tumor oxygenation were evaluated in murine squamous cell carcinoma (SCCVII) by electron paramagnetic resonance imaging (EPRI) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify an optimal time after rapamycin treatment for enhanced tumor radioresponse. Rapamycin treatment was initiated on SCCVII solid tumors 8 days after implantation (500–750 mm3) and measurements of tumor pO2 and blood volume were conducted from day 8 to 14 by EPRI/MRI. Microvessel density was evaluated over the same time period by immunohistochemical analysis. Tumor blood volume as measured by MRI significantly decreased 2 days after rapamycin treatment. Tumor pO2 levels modestly but significantly increased 2 days after rapamycin treatment; whereas, it decreased in non-treated control tumors. Furthermore, the fraction of hypoxic area (pixels with pO2<10 mm Hg) in the tumor region decreased 2 days after rapamycin treatments. Immunohistochemical analysis of tumor microvessel density and pericyte coverage revealed that microvessel density decreased 2 days after rapamycin treatment, but pericyte coverage did not change, similar to what was seen with anti-angiogenic agents such as sunitinib which cause vascular renormalization. Collectively, EPRI/MRI co-imaging can provide non-invasive evidence of rapamycin-induced vascular renormalization and resultant transient increase in tumor oxygenation. Improved oxygenation by rapamycin treatment provides a temporal window for anti-cancer therapies to realize enhanced response to radiotherapy.


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