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Improving the prevention and detection of preinvasive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is expected to lower both morbidity and mortality from breast cancer. Transgenic mouse models can be used as a 'test bed' to develop new imaging methods and to evaluate the efficacy of candidate preventive therapies. We hypothesized that despite its microscopic size, early murine mammary cancer, including DCIS, might be accurately detected by MRI. C3(1) SV40 TAg female mice (n=23) between 10 and 18 weeks of age were selected for study. Eleven mice were subjected to in vitro imaging using a T(2)-weighted spin echo sequence and 12 mice were selected for in vivo imaging using a T(1)-weighted gradient echo, a T(2)-weighted spin echo and high spectral and spatial resolution imaging sequences. The imaged glands were carefully dissected, formalin fixed and paraffin embedded, and then H&E stained sections were obtained. The ratio of image-detected versus histologically detected cancers was obtained by reviewing the MR images and H&E sections independently and using histology as the gold standard. MR images were able to detect 12/12 intramammary lymph nodes, 1/1 relatively large (approximately 5 mm) tumor, 17/18 small (approximately 1 mm) tumors and 13/16 ducts distended with DCIS greater than 300 microm. Significantly, there were no false positives--i.e., image detection always corresponded to a histologically detectable cancer in this model. These results indicate that MR imaging can reliably detect both preinvasive in situ and early invasive mammary cancers in mice with high sensitivity. This technology is an important step toward the more effective use of non-invasive imaging in pre-clinical studies of breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Med Biol

Publication Date





5481 - 5493


Animals, Carcinoma, Feasibility Studies, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Microscopy