Purpose: To assess the ability of a polarization transfer (PT) magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technique to improve the detection of the individual phospholipid metabolites phosphocholine (PC), phosphoethanolamine (PE), glycerophosphocholine (GPC), and glycerophosphoethanolamine (GPE) in vivo in breast tumor xenografts.
Materials and methods: The adiabatic version of refocused insensitive nuclei enhanced by polarization transfer (BINEPT) MRS was tested at 9.4 Tesla in phantoms and animal models. BINEPT and pulse-acquire (PA) 31P MRS was acquired consecutively from the same orthotopic MCF-7 (n = 10) and MDA-MB-231 (n = 10) breast tumor xenografts. After in vivo MRS measurements, animals were euthanized, tumors were extracted and high resolution (HR)-MRS was performed. Signal to noise ratios (SNRs) and metabolite ratios were compared for BINEPT and PA MRS, and were also measured and compared with that from HR-MRS.
Results: BINEPT exclusively detected metabolites with 1H-31P coupling such as PC, PE, GPC, and GPE, thereby creating a significantly improved, flat baseline because overlapping resonances from immobile and partly mobile phospholipids were removed without loss of sensitivity. GPE and GPC were more accurately detected by BINEPT in vivo, which enabled a reliable quantification of metabolite ratios such as PE/GPE and PC/GPC, which are important markers of tumor aggressiveness and treatment response.
Conclusion: BINEPT is advantageous over PA for detecting and quantifying the individual phospholipid metabolites PC, PE, GPC, and GPE in vivo at high magnetic field strength. As BINEPT can be used clinically, alterations in these phospholipid metabolites can be assessed in vivo for cancer diagnosis and treatment monitoring.