Following an initial response of brain metastases to Gamma Knife radiosurgery, regrowth of the enhancing lesion as detected on MRI may represent either radiation necrosis (a treatment-related inflammatory change) or recurrent tumor. Differentiation of radiation necrosis from tumor is vital for management decision making but remains difficult by imaging alone. In this study, gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF) was used to identify differential metabolite profiles of the 2 tissue types obtained by surgical biopsy to find potential targets for noninvasive imaging.
Specimens of pure radiation necrosis and pure tumor obtained from patient brain biopsies were flash-frozen and validated histologically. These formalin-free tissue samples were then analyzed using GC-TOF. The metabolite profiles of radiation necrosis and tumor samples were compared using multivariate and univariate statistical analysis. Statistical significance was defined as p ≤ 0.05.
For the metabolic profiling, GC-TOF was performed on 7 samples of radiation necrosis and 7 samples of tumor. Of the 141 metabolites identified, 17 (12.1%) were found to be statistically significantly different between comparison groups. Of these metabolites, 6 were increased in tumor, and 11 were increased in radiation necrosis. An unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis found that tumor had elevated levels of metabolites associated with energy metabolism, whereas radiation necrosis had elevated levels of metabolites that were fatty acids and antioxidants/cofactors.
To the authors' knowledge, this is the first tissue-based metabolomics study of radiation necrosis and tumor. Radiation necrosis and recurrent tumor following Gamma Knife radiosurgery for brain metastases have unique metabolite profiles that may be targeted in the future to develop noninvasive metabolic imaging techniques.