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Abnormal pH is a common feature of malignant tumors and has been associated clinically with suboptimal outcomes. Amide proton transfer magnetic resonance imaging (APT MRI) holds promise as a means to noninvasively measure tumor pH, yet multiple factors collectively make quantification of tumor pH from APT MRI data challenging. The purpose of this study was to improve our understanding of the biophysical sources of altered APT MRI signals in tumors. Combining in vivo APT MRI measurements with ex vivo histological measurements of protein concentration in a rat model of brain metastasis, we determined that the proportion of APT MRI signal originating from changes in protein concentration was approximately 66%, with the remaining 34% originating from changes in tumor pH. In a mouse model of hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (FaDu), APT MRI showed that a reduction in tumor hypoxia was associated with a shift in tumor pH. The results of this study extend our understanding of APT MRI data and may enable the use of APT MRI to infer the pH of individual patients' tumors as either a biomarker for therapy stratification or as a measure of therapeutic response in clinical settings. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings advance our understanding of amide proton transfer magnetic resonance imaging (APT MRI) of tumors and may improve the interpretation of APT MRI in clinical settings.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Res

Publication Date





1343 - 1352


Amides, Animals, Atovaquone, Cell Hypoxia, Female, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Nude, Neoplasm Proteins, Neoplasms, Protons, Rats