New imaging technique tracks brain cancer cells

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Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland have developed a cryo-imaging technique to view a mouse model of glioblastoma multiforme, according to a study published online Aug. 23 in Cancer Research.

"We're able to see things we couldn't before, and we can use these images to understand how tumor cells invade and disperse," Susann M. Brady-Kalnay, PhD, professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Case Western, said in a statement.

The information, in turn, can be used to help develop and test the effectiveness of drugs and other therapies used to treat glioblastoma multiforme, she said.

To obtain the images, the scientists used a model that included four different cell lines of brain cancers at various stages of tumor development and dispersion. The cancer cells were modified with fluorescent markers and implanted in the model's brain.

The cryo-imaging system, developed by David L. Wilson, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western, disassembles the brain layer by layer and reassembles the model into a color 3D digital image.

Using software and algorithms, the researchers differentiated the main tumor mass, the blood vessels that feed the cancer and dispersing cells. The imaging system enabled them to view single cells and pinpoint their locations in the brain.

The researchers found that two cell lines, a human brain cancer LN229, and a rodent cancer CNS-1, best resemble the actions of glioblastoma multiforme in human patients.

Reconstructions of models of those two lines enabled the researchers to analyze the extent and patterns of cancer cell migration and dispersal from tumors along blood vessels and white matter tracts within the brain.

The ability to produce such clear and detailed images, the researchers said, will be invaluable when evaluating the potency of drugs and other therapies designed to block dispersal of glioblastoma multiforme cells.