Assessment of MRI to estimate metastatic dissemination risk and prometastatic effects of chemotherapy

George S. Karagiannis, Anthony Bianchi, Luis Rivera Sanchez, Kamal Ambadipudi, Min Hui Cui, Jesus M. Anampa, Saeed Asiry, Yarong Wang, Allison S. Harney, Jessica M. Pastoriza, Yu Lin, Xiaoming Chen, Joan G. Jones, David Entenberg, Dana Haddad, Laura J. Hodges, Timothy Q. Duong, Joseph A. Sparano, Maja H. Oktay, Craig A. BranchJohn S. Condeelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metastatic dissemination in breast cancer is regulated by specialized intravasation sites called “tumor microenvironment of metastasis” (TMEM) doorways, composed of a tumor cell expressing the actin-regulatory protein Mena, a perivascular macrophage, and an endothelial cell, all in stable physical contact. High TMEM doorway number is associated with an increased risk of distant metastasis in human breast cancer and mouse models of breast carcinoma. Here, we developed a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methodology, called TMEM Activity-MRI, to detect TMEM-associated vascular openings that serve as the portal of entry for cancer cell intravasation and metastatic dissemination. We demonstrate that TMEM Activity-MRI correlates with primary tumor TMEM doorway counts in both breast cancer patients and mouse models, including MMTV-PyMT and patient-derived xenograft models. In addition, TMEM Activity-MRI is reduced in mouse models upon treatment with rebastinib, a specific and potent TMEM doorway inhibitor. TMEM Activity-MRI is an assay that specifically measures TMEM-associated vascular opening (TAVO) events in the tumor microenvironment, and as such, can be utilized in mechanistic studies investigating molecular pathways of cancer cell dissemination and metastasis. Finally, we demonstrate that TMEM Activity-MRI increases upon treatment with paclitaxel in mouse models, consistent with prior observations that chemotherapy enhances TMEM doorway assembly and activity in human breast cancer. Our findings suggest that TMEM Activity-MRI is a promising precision medicine tool for localized breast cancer that could be used as a non-invasive test to determine metastatic risk and serve as an intermediate pharmacodynamic biomarker to monitor therapeutic response to agents that block TMEM doorway-mediated dissemination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101
Journalnpj Breast Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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