Rationale and objectives: Malignancy provokes regional changes to vessel shape. Characteristic vessel tortuosity abnormalities appear early during tumor development, affect initially healthy vessels, spread beyond the confines of tumor margins, and do not simply mirror tissue perfusion. The ability to detect and quantify tortuosity abnormalities on high-resolution magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) images offers a new approach to the noninvasive diagnosis of malignancy. This report evaluates a computerized, statistical method of analyzing the shapes of vessels extracted from MRA in diagnosing cancer.
Materials and methods: The regional vasculature of 34 healthy subjects was compared with the tumor-associated vasculature of 30 brain tumors before surgical resection. The operator performing the analysis was blinded to the diagnosis. Vessels were segmented from an MRA of each subject, a region of interest was defined in each tumor patient and was mapped to all healthy controls, and a statistical analysis of vessel shape measures was then performed over the region of interest. Many difficult cases were included, such as pinpoint, hemorrhagic, and irradiated tumors, as were hypervascular benign tumors. Tumors were identified as benign or malignant on the basis of histological evaluation.
Results: A discriminant analysis performed at the study's conclusion successfully classified all but one of the 30 tumors as benign or malignant on the basis of vessel tortuosity.
Conclusions: Quantitative, statistical measures of vessel shape offer a new approach to the diagnosis and staging of disease. Although the methods developed under the current report must be tested against a new series of cases, initial results are promising.