This study demonstrates that a dynamic susceptibility contrast-magnetic resonance imaging (DSC-MRI) perfusion parameter may indicate vascular abnormality in a brain tumor model and reflects an effect of dexamethasone treatment. In addition, X-ray computed tomography (CT) measurements of vascular tortuosity and tissue markers of vascular morphology were performed to investigate the underpinnings of tumor response to dexamethasone.
One cohort of Fisher 344 rats (N = 13), inoculated intracerebrally with 9L gliosarcoma cells, was treated with dexamethasone (i.p. 3 mg/kg/day) for five consecutive days, and another cohort (N = 11) was treated with equal volume of saline. Longitudinal DSC-MRI studies were performed at the first (baseline), third and fifth day of treatments. Relative cerebral blood volume (rCBV) was significantly reduced on the third day of dexamethasone treatment (0.65±.13) as compared to the fifth day during treatment (1.26±.19, p<0.05). In saline treated rats, relative CBV gradually increased during treatment (0.89±.13, 1.00±.21, 1.13±.23) with no significant difference on the third day of treatment (p>0.05). In separate serial studies, microfocal X-ray CT of ex vivo brain specimens (N = 9) and immunohistochemistry for endothelial cell marker anti-CD31 (N = 8) were performed. Vascular morphology of ex vivo rat brains from micro-CT analysis showed hypervascular characteristics in tumors, and both vessel density (41.32±2.34 branches/mm3, p<0.001) and vessel tortuosity (p<0.05) were significantly reduced in tumors of rats treated with dexamethasone compared to saline (74.29±3.51 branches/mm3). The vascular architecture of rat brain tissue was examined with anti-CD31 antibody, and dexamethasone treated tumor regions showed reduced vessel area (16.45±1.36 µm2) as compared to saline treated tumor regions (30.83±4.31 µm2, p<0.001) and non-tumor regions (22.80±1.11 µm2, p<0.01).
Increased vascular density and tortuosity are culprit to abnormal perfusion, which is transiently reduced during dexamethasone treatment.