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Noninvasive Identification of Viable Cell Populations in Docetaxel-Treated Breast Tumors Using Ferritin-Based Magnetic Resonance Imaging

posted on 2013-01-02, 01:24 authored by YoonSeok Choi, Hoe Suk Kim, Kyoung-Won Cho, Kyung-Min Lee, Yoon Jung Yi, Sung-Jong Eun, Hyun Jin Kim, Jisu Woo, Seung Hong Choi, Taeg-Keun Whangbo, ChulSoo Choi, Dong-Young Noh, Woo Kyung Moon


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are highly tumorigenic and are responsible for tumor progression and chemoresistance. Noninvasive imaging methods for the visualization of CSC populations within tumors in vivo will have a considerable impact on the development of new CSC-targeting therapeutics.

Methodology/Principal Findings

In this study, human breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) transduced with dual reporter genes (human ferritin heavy chain [FTH] and enhanced green fluorescence protein [EGFP]) were transplanted into NOD/SCID mice to allow noninvasive tracking of BCSC-derived populations. No changes in the properties of the BCSCs were observed due to ferritin overexpression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed significantly different signal intensities (R2* values) between BCSCs and FTH-BCSCs in vitro and in vivo. In addition, distinct populations of pixels with high R2* values were detected in docetaxel-treated FTH-BCSC tumors compared with control tumors, even before the tumor sizes changed. Histological analysis revealed that areas showing high R2* values in docetaxel-treated FTH-BCSC tumors by MRI contained EGFP+/FTH+ viable cell populations with high percentages of CD44+/CD24− cells.


These findings suggest that ferritin-based MRI, which provides high spatial resolution and tissue contrast, can be used as a reliable method to identify viable cell populations derived from BCSCs after chemotherapy and may serve as a new tool to monitor the efficacy of CSC-targeting therapies in vivo.


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