An improved method for detecting early changes in tumors in response to treatment, based on a modification of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, has been demonstrated in an animal model. Early detection of therapeutic response in tumors is important both clinically and in pre-clinical assessments of novel treatments. Noninvasive imaging methods that can detect and assess tumor response early in the course of treatment, and before frank changes in tumor morphology are evident, are of considerable interest as potential biomarkers of treatment efficacy. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging is sensitive to changes in water diffusion rates in tissues that result from structural variations in the local cellular environment, but conventional methods mainly reflect changes in tissue cellularity and do not convey information specific to microstructural variations at sub-cellular scales. We implemented a modified imaging technique using oscillating gradients of the magnetic field for evaluating water diffusion rates over very short spatial scales that are more specific for detecting changes in intracellular structure that may precede changes in cellularity. Results from a study of orthotopic 9L gliomas in rat brains indicate that this method can detect changes as early as 24 h following treatment with 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea, when conventional approaches do not find significant effects. These studies suggest that diffusion imaging using oscillating gradients may be used to obtain an earlier indication of treatment efficacy than previous magnetic resonance imaging methods.
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