MRI Scan Used for Heart Disease Could Also Detect Aggressive Cancers

Cancer Research
29 Jun, 2020 ,

Noninvasive early indicators of treatment response are crucial to the successful delivery of precision medicine in children with cancer. Neuroblastoma is a common solid tumor of young children that arises from anomalies in neural crest development. Therapeutic approaches aiming to destabilize MYCN protein, such as small molecule inhibitors of Aurora A and mTOR, are currently being evaluated in early phase clinical trials in children with high-risk MYCN-driven disease, with limited ability to evaluate conventional pharmacodynamic biomarkers of response.

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Abstract

Noninvasive early indicators of treatment response are crucial to the successful delivery of precision medicine in children with cancer. Neuroblastoma is a common solid tumor of young children that arises from anomalies in neural crest development. Therapeutic approaches aiming to destabilize MYCN protein, such as small molecule inhibitors of Aurora A and mTOR, are currently being evaluated in early phase clinical trials in children with high-risk MYCN-driven disease, with limited ability to evaluate conventional pharmacodynamic biomarkers of response. T1 mapping is an MRI scan that measures the proton spin-lattice relaxation time T1. Using a multiparametric MRI-pathological cross-correlative approach and computational pathology methodologies including a machine learning-based algorithm for the automatic detection and classification of neuroblasts, we show here that T1 mapping is sensitive to the rich histopathological heterogeneity of neuroblastoma in the Th-MYCN transgenic model. Regions with high native T1 corresponded to regions dense in proliferative undifferentiated neuroblasts, whereas regions characterized by low T1 were rich in apoptotic or differentiating neuroblasts. Reductions in tumor native T1 represented a sensitive biomarker of response to treatment-induced apoptosis with two MYCN-targeted small molecule inhibitors: Aurora A kinase inhibitor alisertib (MLN8237) and MTOR inhibitor vistusertib (AZD2014). Overall, we demonstrate the potential of T1-mapping, a scan readily available on most clinical MRI scanners, to assess response to therapy and guide clinical trials for children with neuroblastoma. The study reinforces the potential role of MRI-based functional imaging in delivering precision medicine to children with neuroblastoma.