A primary focus of Dr. Kathleen Schmainda’s laboratory has been the development of MRI methods to assess brain tumor angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) and invasion, thought to be a primary reason why brain tumors are incurable. In this regard, much research has been undertaken to develop the dynamic susceptibility contrast (DSC) perfusion MRI methods to evaluate angiogenesis, and diffusion-based methods to detect brain tumor invasion. The laboratory has published several seminal papers on the topic of perfusion, especially, rCBV (relative cerebral blood volume). These papers included the first clinical paper on using combined gradient-echo and spin-echo echo-planar based techniques in brain tumor patients and several papers clearly demonstrating the importance and best practices for contrast agent leakage correction, critically necessary, for the creation of accurate rCBV maps. The DSC acquisition and post-processing approach developed by the Schmainda laboratory were further tested in recent ACRIN (American College of Radiology) clinical trials. The results indicate that rCBV is an important biomarker for the prediction of response to the anti-angiogenic drug, bevacizumab. As a corollary a new method of “standardization” which enables the calibration of both rCBV and pre/post-contrast T1 weighted images has been developed. This proven calibration enables greater consistency of results across time, important for efficient radiologic workflow and robust longitudinal analyses. Regarding diffusion, the potential of alpha-diffusion mapping and later functional diffusion mapping to detect brain tumor invasion in both rat brain tumor models and patients was demonstrated by Dr Schmainda’s group, leading to several ISMRM Young Investigator awards as well as “Best Paper” awards at clinical meetings. Dr Schmainda’s group has also been awarded four U.S. patents for MRI technology development, with several more pending. More recently the Schmainda laboratory has been working towards translating these developments for brain tumor imaging from the adult to pediatric populations and for use in evaluating cancers outside the brain, such as liver and musculoskeletal cancers.
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