Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Medical Biophysics


Dr. Stewart Gaede


Technological advances in imaging and radiotherapy have led to significant improvement in the survival rate of breast cancer patients. However, a larger proportion of patients are now exhibiting the less understood, latent effects of incidental cardiac irradiation that occurs during left-sided breast radiotherapy. Here, we examine the utility of four-dimensional computed tomography (4D-CT) for the accurate assessment of cardiac dose; and a hybrid positron emission tomography (PET) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system to longitudinally study radiation-induced cardiac effects in a canine model.

Using 4D-CT and deformable dose accumulation, we assessed the variation caused by breathing motion in the estimated dose to the heart, left-ventricle, and left anterior descending artery (LAD) of left-sided breast cancer patients. The LAD showed substantial variation in dose due to breathing. In light of this, we suggest the use of 4D-CT and dose accumulation for future clinical studies looking at the relationship between LAD dose and cardiac toxicity.

Although symptoms of cardiac dysfunction may not manifest clinically for 10-15 years post radiation, PET-MRI can potentially identify earlier changes in cardiac inflammation and perfusion that are typically asymptomatic. Using PET-MRI, the progression of radiation-induced cardiac toxicity was assessed in a large animal model. Five canines were imaged using 13N-ammonia and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET-MRI to assess changes in myocardial perfusion and inflammation, respectively. All subjects were imaged at baseline, 1 week, 4 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after focused cardiac irradiation. To the best of our knowledge PET has not been previously used to assess cardiac perfusion following irradiation.

The delivered dose to the heart, left ventricle, LAD, and left circumflex artery were comparable to what has been observed during breast radiotherapy. Relative to baseline, a transient increase in myocardial perfusion was observed followed by a gradual return to baseline. However, a persistent increase in FDG uptake was observed throughout the entire left ventricle, including both irradiated and less-irradiated portions of the heart.

In light of these findings, we suggest the use of this imaging approach for future human studies to assess mitigation strategies aimed at minimizing cardiac exposure and long-term toxicity subsequent to left-sided breast irradiation.