Magnetic resonance assessment of response to therapy: tumor change measurement, truth data and error sources

Transl Oncol. 2009 Dec;2(4):211-5. doi: 10.1593/tlo.09241.


This article describes methods and issues that are specific to the assessment of change in tumor characteristics as measured using quantitative magnetic resonance (MR) techniques and how this relates to the establishment of quantitative MR imaging (MRI) biomarkers of patient response to therapy. The initial focus is on the various sources of bias and variance in the measurement of microvascular parameters and diffusion parameters as such parameters are being used relatively commonly as secondary or exploratory end points in current phase 1/2 clinical trails of conventional and targeted therapies. Several ongoing initiatives that seek to identify the magnitude of some of the sources of measurement variations are then discussed. Finally, resources being made available through the National Cancer Institute Reference Image Database to Evaluate Response (RIDER) project that might be of use in investigations of quantitative MRI biomarker change analysis are described. These resources include 1) data from phantom-based assessment of system response, including short-term (1 hour) and moderate-term (1 week) contrast response and relaxation time measurement, 2) data obtained from repeated dynamic contrast agent-enhanced MRI studies in intracranial tumors, and 3) data obtained from repeated diffusion MRI studies in both breast and brain. A concluding section briefly discusses issues that must be addressed to allow the transition of MR-based imaging biomarker measures from their current role as secondary/exploratory end points in clinical trials to primary/surrogate markers of response and, ultimately, in clinical application.