Quantitative Fluorescence Microscopy Measures Vascular Pore Size in Primary and Metastatic Brain Tumors

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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 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 fluorescent 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 ~10 fold smaller than glioma vasculature. This difference explains why antibodies are effective against glioblastoma but generally fail in brain metastases of breast cancer. Based on our observations, we hypothesize that traztuzumab 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.