A Window on Blood Flow to Tumors

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Summer 2020

Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have created a computer program for scientists at no charge that lets users readily quantify the structural and functional changes in the blood flow networks feeding tumors. The team recently published a link to download the new program, called HemoSYS, and an accompanying manual with instructions on how to use it in Nature Scientific Reports.

“Compared to blood flow in healthy tissues, tumor blood flow is abnormal,” creating a huge hurdle to effective delivery of therapeutics, says radiologist and biomedical engineer Arvind Pathak. “HemoSYS enables scientists to quantify these abnormalities from imaging data acquired from tumors in live animals.”

Studying the architecture of blood vessels and their flow dynamics in tumors could provide insights into cancer progression and metastasis, says Janaka Senarathna, a research fellow in Pathak’s lab and lead author of the paper. This approach could accelerate development of new therapies that target a tumor’s blood vessels in order to limit its supply of nutrients and oxygen. HemoSYS could also lead to more effective delivery of already available drugs by mapping blood flow fluctuations in the vessels feeding the tumor, the researchers say.

The scientists caution that the research tool is not directly applicable to human tumors yet. But, says Pathak, “as our ability to obtain high-resolution images in the clinic improves, we hope that this tool can be adapted to provide a noninvasive way to analyze the blood flow fluctuations in an individual patient’s cancer and help to customize their therapy.”

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