Quantitative fluorescence microscopy measures vascular pore size in primary and metastatic brain tumors

Rajendar K. Mittapalli, Chris E. Adkins, Kaci A. Bohn, Afroz S. Mohammad, Julie A. Lockman, Paul R. Lockman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Tumors residing in the central nervous system (CNS) compromise the blood-brain barrier (BBB) via increased vascular permeability, with the magnitude of changes dependent on the tumor type and location. Current studies determine penetrability of a cancer therapeutic by administering progressively larger molecules until cutoff is observed where little to no tumor accumulation occurs. However, decades-old experimental work and mathematical modeling document methods to calculate both the size of the vascular opening (pore) with solute permeability values. In this study, we updated this classic mathematical modeling approach with quantitative fluorescence microscopy in two preclinical tumor models, allowing simultaneous administration of multiple sized tracers to determine vascular permeability at a resolution of nearly one micron. We observed that three molecules ranging from 100 Da to 70 kDa permeated into a preclinical glioblastoma model at rates proportional to their diffusion in water. This suggests the solutes freely diffused from blood to glioma across vascular pores without steric restriction, which calculates to a pore size of >140 nm in diameter. In contrast, the calculated pore size of a brain metastasis of breast cancer was approximately 10-fold smaller than glioma vasculature. This difference explains why antibodies are effective against glioblastoma but generally fail in brain metastases of breast cancer. On the basis of our observations, we hypothesize that trastuzumab most likely fails in the treatment of brain metastases of breast cancer because of poor CNS penetration, while the similar sized antibody bevacizumab is effective in the same tumor type not because it penetrates the CNS degree better, but because it scavenges VEGF in the vascular compartment, which reduces edema and permeation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Robert Thorne, PhD, for his valuable input into the manuscript. This research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (R01CA166067-01A1) and Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (W81XWH-062-0033; awarded to P.R. Lockman). Additional support for this research was provided by WVCTSI through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH (U54GM104942). The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

Publisher Copyright:
©2016 AACR.


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