Imaging metabolic dysfunction, a hallmark of solid tumors, usually requires radioactive tracers. Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) imaging can potentially detect and visualize glucose uptake and metabolism, without the need for radioisotopes. Here, we tested the feasibility of using glucose CEST (glucoCEST) to image unlabeled glucose uptake in head and neck cancer by using a clinical 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The average CEST contrast between tumors and normal tissue in 17 patients was 7.58% (P = 0.006) in the 3-4 ppm offset frequency range and 5.06% (P = 0.02) in 1-5 ppm range. In a subgroup of eight patients, glucoCEST signal enhancement was higher in tumors than in normal muscle (4.98% vs. 1.28%, P < 0.021). We conclude that glucoCEST images of head and neck cancer can be obtained with a clinical 3T MRI scanner.
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