Cherenkov emissions for studying tumor changes during radiation therapy: An exploratory study in domesticated dogs with naturally-occurring cancer.



Real-time monitoring of physiological changes of tumor tissue during radiation therapy (RT) could improve therapeutic efficacy and predict therapeutic outcomes. Cherenkov radiation is a normal byproduct of radiation deposited in tissue. Previous studies in rat tumors have confirmed a correlation between Cherenkov emission spectra and optical measurements of blood-oxygen saturation based on the tissue absorption coefficients. The purpose of this study is to determine if it is feasible to image Cherenkov emissions during radiation therapy in larger human-sized tumors of pet dogs with cancer. We also wished to validate the prior work in rats, to determine if Cherenkov emissions have the potential to act an indicator of blood-oxygen saturation or water-content changes in the tumor tissue-both of which have been correlated with patient prognosis.


A DoseOptics camera, built to image the low-intensity emission of Cherenkov radiation, was used to measure Cherenkov intensities in a cohort of cancer-bearing pet dogs during clinical irradiation. Tumor type and location varied, as did the radiation fractionation scheme and beam arrangement, each planned according to institutional standard-of-care. Unmodulated radiation was delivered using multiple 6 MV X-ray beams from a clinical linear accelerator. Each dog was treated with a minimum of 16 Gy total, in ≥3 fractions. Each fraction was split into at least three subfractions per gantry angle. During each subfraction, Cherenkov emissions were imaged.


We documented significant intra-subfraction differences between the Cherenkov intensities for normal tissue, whole-tumor tissue, tissue at the edge of the tumor and tissue at the center of the tumor (p<0.05). Additionally, intra-subfraction changes suggest that Cherenkov emissions may have captured fluctuating absorption properties within the tumor.


Here we demonstrate that it is possible to obtain Cherenkov emissions from canine cancers within a fraction of radiotherapy. The entire optical spectrum was obtained which includes the window for imaging changes in water and hemoglobin saturation. This lends credence to the goal of using this method during radiotherapy in human patients and client-owned pets.





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Publication Info

Rickard, Ashlyn G, Hiroto Yoshikawa, Gregory M Palmer, Harrison Q Liu, Mark W Dewhirst, Michael W Nolan and Xiaofeng Zhang (2020). Cherenkov emissions for studying tumor changes during radiation therapy: An exploratory study in domesticated dogs with naturally-occurring cancer. PloS one, 15(8). p. e0238106. 10.1371/journal.pone.0238106 Retrieved from

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Ashlyn Rickard

Postdoctoral Associate

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