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Physics and Imaging in Radiation Oncology



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Brain metastases affect more breast cancer patients than ever before due to increased overall patient survival with improved molecularly targeted treatments. Approximately 25–34% of breast cancer patients develop brain metastases in their lifetime. Due to the blood–brain barrier (BBB), the standard treatment for breast cancer brain metastases (BCBM) is surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and/or whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). At the cost of cognitive side effects, WBRT has proven efficacy in treating brain metastases when used with local therapies such as SRS and surgery. This review investigated the potential use of glial activation positron emission tomography (PET) imaging for radiation treatment of BCBM. In order to put these studies into context, we provided background on current radiation treatment approaches for BCBM, our current understanding of the brain microenvironment, its interaction with the peripheral immune system, and alterations in the brain microenvironment by BCBM and radiation. We summarized preclinical literature on the interactions between glial activation and cognition and clinical studies using translocator protein (TSPO) PET to image glial activation in the context of neurological diseases. TSPO-PET is not employed clinically in assessing and guiding cancer therapies. However, it has gained traction in preclinical studies where glial activation was investigated from primary brain cancer, metastases and radiation treatments. Novel glial activation PET imaging and its applications in preclinical studies using breast cancer models and glial immunohistochemistry are highlighted. Lastly, we discuss the potential clinical application of glial activation imaging to improve the therapeutic ratio of radiation treatments for BCBM.