Quantitative In-vivo Imaging of the Impact of Cancer Therapy on the Normal Pediatric Brain

This independent research program focuses on using non-invasive MR technology to probe white matter damage resulting from radiological or pharmacological insult.

The loss of cerebral white matter and/or failure to develop white matter at an age appropriate rate is thought to at least partially account for the increased risk of cognitive delays or deficits that impair the academic performance, employment opportunities, and quality of life for long-term survivors. Basic research has focused on the development of innovative algorithms and methods to quantify the structure and integrity of cerebral white matter in vivo. Specific accomplishments include the development of a methodology to segment MR images of the pediatric brain into specific tissue classes even in the presence of abnormality.

This objective, highly reproducible methodology was essential for quantifying white matter abnormality and following the longitudinal development of both normal and abnormal cerebral white matter volumes during and after treatment.

Collaborative efforts with the Division of Behavioral Medicine have been able to associate atypical cerebral white matter volume development with deficits in neurocognitive functioning in survivors. Building on this experience, new studies have been designed combining radiation dosimetry maps with MR imaging measures of regional blood volume and diffusion anisotropy to investigate the integrity of white matter microvasculature and axonal myelin. Changes in microvasculature and myelin are hypothesized to precede the more global changes in cerebral white matter volume.

All this work is synergistic with other research efforts in functional MR imaging, white matter fiber tractography, adaptive contour modeling, and fractal analysis within the Division of Translational Imaging Research. Clinical research has translated this basic research into hypotheses driven objectives incorporated into treatment protocols in the Hematologic Malignancies, Neurobiology & Brain Tumor, and Cancer Prevention & Control Programs.

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