Tumour responses to radiotherapy are currently primarily assessed by changes in size. Imaging permits non-invasive, whole-body assessment of tumour burden and guides treatment options for most tumours. However, in most tumours, changes in size are slow to manifest and can sometimes be difficult to interpret or misleading, potentially leading to prolonged durations of ineffective treatment and delays in changing therapy. Functional imaging techniques that monitor biological processes have the potential to detect tumour responses to treatment earlier and refine treatment options based on tumour biology rather than solely on size and staging. By considering the biological effects of radiotherapy, this review focusses on emerging functional imaging techniques with the potential to augment morphological imaging and serve as biomarkers of early response to radiotherapy.
Keywords: diffusion-weighted imaging; functional imaging; hyperpolarised 13C; magnetic resonance imaging; positron emission tomography; radiotherapy; treatment response.