Micro-imaging of Brain Cancer Radiation Therapy Using Phase-contrast Computed Tomography

Giacomo E. Barbone, Alberto Bravin, Pantaleo Romanelli, Alberto Mittone, Domenico Bucci, Thomas Gaaβ, Géraldine Le Duc, Sigrid Auweter, Maximilian F. Reiser, Markus J. Kraiger, Martin Hrabě de Angelis, Giuseppe Battaglia, Paola Coan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Experimental neuroimaging provides a wide range of methods for the visualization of brain anatomic morphology down to subcellular detail. Still, each technique-specific detection mechanism presents compromises among the achievable field-of-view size, spatial resolution, and nervous tissue sensitivity, leading to partial sample coverage, unresolved morphologic structures, or sparse labeling of neuronal populations and often also to obligatory sample dissection or other sample invasive manipulations. X-ray phase-contrast imaging computed tomography (PCI-CT) is an experimental imaging method that simultaneously provides micrometric spatial resolution, high soft-tissue sensitivity, and ex vivo full organ rodent brain coverage without any need for sample dissection, staining or labeling, or contrast agent injection. In the present study, we explored the benefits and limitations of PCI-CT use for in vitro imaging of normal and cancerous brain neuromorphology after in vivo treatment with synchrotron-generated x-ray microbeam radiation therapy (MRT), a spatially fractionated experimental high-dose radiosurgery. The goals were visualization of the MRT effects on nervous tissue and a qualitative comparison of the results to the histologic and high-field magnetic resonance imaging findings. Methods and Materials: MRT was administered in vivo to the brain of both healthy and cancer-bearing rats. At 45 days after treatment, the brain was dissected out and imaged ex vivo using propagation-based PCI-CT. Results: PCI-CT visualizes the brain anatomy and microvasculature in 3 dimensions and distinguishes cancerous tissue morphology, necrosis, and intratumor accumulation of iron and calcium deposits. Moreover, PCI-CT detects the effects of MRT throughout the treatment target areas (eg, the formation of micrometer-thick radiation-induced tissue ablation). The observed neurostructures were confirmed by histologic and immunohistochemistry examination and related to the micro-magnetic resonance imaging data. Conclusions: PCI-CT enabled a unique 3D neuroimaging approach for ex vivo studies on small animal models in that it concurrently delivers high-resolution insight of local brain tissue morphology in both normal and cancerous micro-milieu, localizes radiosurgical damage, and highlights the deep microvasculature. This method could assist experimental small animal neurology studies in the postmortem evaluation of neuropathology or treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-984
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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