Image of the Day: Tumor Vasculature

Researchers use a cutting-edge technique to map the blood vessels of brain tumors as patients are awake during surgery with the hope of reducing damage to adjacent tissues.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes
Jan 24, 2020
Functional ultrasound shows the tree-like vasculature of a lower grade glioma tumor in the human brain.
CUBE (Center for Ultrasound Brain Imaging @ Erasmus MC)

Researchers at CUBE, the Center for Ultrasound Brain Imaging, at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam have used functional ultrasound during brain surgery while patients were awake to study the vascular structure of both brain tumors and their surrounding tissues, they describe in a study published on January 9 in Frontiers in Neuroscience. “For the first time, we now have access to a technique with which we can image the living brain and brain tumors directly and with an unprecedented level of precision,” Pieter Kruizinga and Sadaf Soloukey, researchers at CUBE and two of the paper’s authors, write in a press release emailed to The Scientist

The team used functional ultrasound, a new neuroimaging tool that can detect minute changes in blood flow, to illuminate the complete vasculature of one patient’s lower grade glioma tumor, revealing a network of blood vessels similar to a tree’s branches. 

“The organization we saw there was mesmerizing: the tumor’s feeding vessels seemed to originate for the most part from a single vessel of origin, arborizing into a larger tree-like structure feeding the tumor,” Kruizinga and Soloukey write in the press release. “This can have enormous impact both surgically as well as for cancer research in general. What if the surgeon can identify these vessels of origin intra-operatively, to allow for a cleaner and more efficient tumor removal? What if we could approach the vessel of origin for targeted tumor therapies? But maybe the most important opportunity our technique now gives rise to: what can this new level of vascular detail tell us about how tumors grow and how they can be treated in the best possible way?”

S. Soloukey et al., “Functional ultrasound (fUS) during awake brain surgery: The clinical potential of intra-operative functional and vascular brain mapping,” Frontiers in Neuroscience, doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.01384, 2020.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.