Theranostics 2018; 8(1):156-168. doi:10.7150/thno.19703

Research Paper

Early Assessment of Tumor Response to Radiation Therapy using High-Resolution Quantitative Microvascular Ultrasound Imaging

Sandeep K. Kasoji1, Judith N. Rivera1, Ryan C. Gessner1,2, Sha X. Chang1,3, Paul A. Dayton1✉

1. UNC/NCSU Joint Dept. of Biomedical Engineering;
2. Sonovol, Inc. (current affiliation);
3. Department of Radiation Oncology, University of North Carolina.


Measuring changes in tumor volume using anatomical imaging weeks to months post radiation therapy (RT) is currently the clinical standard for indicating treatment response to RT. For patients whose tumors do not respond successfully to treatment, this approach is suboptimal as timely modification of the treatment approach may lead to better clinical outcomes. We propose to use tumor microvasculature as a biomarker for early assessment of tumor response to RT. Acoustic angiography is a novel contrast ultrasound imaging technique that enables high-resolution microvascular imaging and has been shown to detect changes in microvascular structure due to cancer growth. Data suggest that acoustic angiography can detect longitudinal changes in the tumor microvascular environment that correlate with RT response.

Methods: Three cohorts of Fisher 344 rats were implanted with rat fibrosarcoma tumors and were treated with a single fraction of RT at three dose levels (15 Gy, 20 Gy, and 25 Gy) at a dose rate of 300 MU/min. A simple treatment condition was chosen for testing the feasibility of our imaging technique. All tumors were longitudinally imaged immediately prior to and after treatment and then every 3 days after treatment for a total of 30 days. Both acoustic angiography (using in-house produced microbubble contrast agents) and standard b-mode imaging was performed at each imaging time point using a pre-clinical Vevo770 scanner and a custom modified dual-frequency transducer.

Results: Results show that all treated tumors in each dose group initially responded to treatment between days 3-15 as indicated by decreased tumor growth accompanied with decreased vascular density. Untreated tumors continued to increase in both volume and vascular density until they reached the maximum allowable size of 2 cm in diameter. Tumors that displayed complete control (no tumor recurrence) continued to decrease in size and vascular density, while tumors that progressed after the initial response presented an increase in tumor volume and volumetric vascular density. The increase in tumor volumetric vascular density in recurring tumors can be detected 10.25 ± 1.5 days, 6 ± 0 days, and 4 ± 1.4 days earlier than the measurable increase in tumor volume in the 15, 20, and 25 Gy dose groups, respectively. A dose-dependent growth rate for tumor recurrence was also observed.

Conclusions: In this feasibility study we have demonstrated the ability of acoustic angiography to detect longitudinal changes in vascular density, which was shown to be a potential biomarker for tumor response to RT.

Keywords: microbubble, acoustic angiography, dual-frequency, radiation therapy, ultrasound.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Kasoji SK, Rivera JN, Gessner RC, Chang SX, Dayton PA. Early Assessment of Tumor Response to Radiation Therapy using High-Resolution Quantitative Microvascular Ultrasound Imaging. Theranostics 2018; 8(1):156-168. doi:10.7150/thno.19703. Available from