Objectives: To investigate the predictive value of four-phase contrast-enhanced CT (CECT) for early complete response (CR) to drug-eluting-bead transarterial chemoembolization (DEB-TACE), with a particular focus on the quantitatively assessed wash-in and wash-out.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of preprocedural CECTs was performed for 129 HCC nodules consecutively subjected to DEB-TACE as first-line therapy. Lesion size, location, and margins were recorded. For the quantitative analysis, the following parameters were computed: contrast enhancement ratio (CER) and lesion-to-liver contrast ratio (LLC) as estimates of wash-in; absolute and relative wash-out (WOabs and WOrel) and delayed percentage attenuation ratio (DPAR) as estimates of wash-out. The early radiological response of each lesion was assessed by the mRECIST criteria and dichotomized in CR versus others (partial response, stable disease, and progressive disease).
Results: All quantitatively assessed wash-out variables had significantly higher rates for CR lesions (WOabs p = 0.01, WOrel p = 0.01, and DPAR p = 0.00002). However, only DPAR demonstrated an acceptable discriminating ability, quantified by AUC = 0.80 (95% CI0.73-0.88). In particular, nodules with DPAR ≥ 120 showed an odds ratio of 3.3(1.5-7.2) for CR (p = 0.0026). When accompanied by smooth lesion margins, DPAR ≥ 120 lesions showed a 78% CR rate at first follow-up imaging. No significative association with CR was found for quantitative wash-in estimates (CER and LLC).
Conclusions: Based on preprocedural CECT, the quantitative assessment of HCC wash-out is useful in predicting early CR after DEB-TACE. Among the different formulas for wash-out quantification, DPAR has the best discriminating ability. When associated, DPAR ≥ 120 and smooth lesion margins are related to relatively high CR rates.
Key points: • A high wash-out rate, quantitatively assessed during preprocedural four-phase contrast-enhanced CT (CECT), is a favorable predictor for early radiological complete response of HCC to drug-eluting-bead chemoembolization (DEB-TACE). • The arterial phase of CECT shows great dispersion of attenuation values among different lesions, even when a standardized protocol is used, limiting its usefulness for quantitative analyses. • Among the different formulas used to quantify the wash-out rate (absolute wash-out, relative wash-out, and delayed percentage attenuation ratio), the latter (DPAR), based only on the delayed phase, is the most predictive (AUC = 0.80), showing a significant association with complete response for values above 120.
Keywords: Biomarkers; Carcinoma, hepatocellular; Therapeutic chemoembolization; Tomography, X-ray computed.
© 2021. The Author(s).