High-resolution computed tomography of single breast cancer microcalcifications in vivo

Mol Imaging. 2011 Aug;10(4):295-304. doi: 10.2310/7290.2010.00050. Epub 2011 Apr 1.


Microcalcification is a hallmark of breast cancer and a key diagnostic feature for mammography. We recently described the first robust animal model of breast cancer microcalcification. In this study, we hypothesized that high-resolution computed tomography (CT) could potentially detect the genesis of a single microcalcification in vivo and quantify its growth over time. Using a commercial CT scanner, we systematically optimized acquisition and reconstruction parameters. Two ray-tracing image reconstruction algorithms were tested: a voxel-driven "fast" cone beam algorithm (FCBA) and a detector-driven "exact" cone beam algorithm (ECBA). By optimizing acquisition and reconstruction parameters, we were able to achieve a resolution of 104 μm full width at half-maximum (FWHM). At an optimal detector sampling frequency, the ECBA provided a 28 μm (21%) FWHM improvement in resolution over the FCBA. In vitro, we were able to image a single 300 μm × 100 μm hydroxyapatite crystal. In a syngeneic rat model of breast cancer, we were able to detect the genesis of a single microcalcification in vivo and follow its growth longitudinally over weeks. Taken together, this study provides an in vivo "gold standard" for the development of calcification-specific contrast agents and a model system for studying the mechanism of breast cancer microcalcification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Calcinosis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Mammography / instrumentation
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Rats
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*