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The peripheral washout sign was first described in delayed dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) using a small molecular contrast medium in solid lesions of the human breast and liver. It was found to be 100% specific for malignant lesions and could therefore potentially be used as an additional noninvasive diagnostic tool differentiating malignant from benign lesions. The origin of this phenomenon has not yet been explained. The objective of this study was to translate the peripheral washout sign as seen in solid tumours in delayed DCE-MRI in human onto an animal model for further assessment of DCE-MRI characteristics and histological analysis. Small molecular contrast medium DCE-MRI was performed over 42 min in experimental colon carcinoma grown subcutaneously in rats. Qualitative and quantitative analyses for evaluation of presence and characteristics of the peripheral washout sign were accomplished, defining four centripetally distributed tumour zones (central, intermediate, peripheral and marginal). One hundred per cent of the carcinomas demonstrated a peripheral washout sign in DCE-MRI starting at 20 min after bolus injection. Histomorphological analysis was performed for tissue classification and evaluation of microvasculature. Quantitative analysis revealed different enhancement profiles of the four tumour zones. Histology indicated centripetally asymmetric vascularization and vascular endothelial growth factor VEGF/VEGF receptor 2 expression within the tumour tissue. Thus, peripheral washout sign can be translated to an animal model. However, comparison of small molecular contrast medium DCE-MRI with histology revealed that histology alone does not explain the occurrence of the peripheral washout.