Purpose: To characterize the effects of high-dose radiation therapy (HDRT) on neuroblastoma tumor vasculature, including the endothelial cell (EC)-pericyte interaction as a potential target for combined treatment with antiangiogenic agents.
Methods and materials: The vascular effects of radiation therapy were examined in a xenograft model of high-risk neuroblastoma. In vivo 3-dimensional contrast-enhanced ultrasonography (3D-CEUS) imaging and immunohistochemistry (IHC) were performed.
Results: HDRT significantly reduced tumor blood volume 6 hours after irradiation compared with the lower doses used in conventionally fractionated radiation. There was a 63% decrease in tumor blood volume after 12-Gy radiation compared with a 24% decrease after 2 Gy. Analysis of tumor vasculature by lectin angiography showed a significant loss of small vessel ends at 6 hours. IHC revealed a significant loss of ECs at 6 and 72 hours after HDRT, with an accompanying loss of immature and mature pericytes at 72 hours.
Conclusions: HDRT affects tumor vasculature in a manner not observed at lower doses. The main observation was an early reduction in tumor perfusion resulting from a reduction of small vessel ends with a corresponding loss of endothelial cells and pericytes.
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