The role of MRI and 18F-FDG PET/CT with respect to evaluation of pathological response in the rectal cancer patients after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy

Indian J Cancer. 2021 Sep 19. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_80_20. Online ahead of print.


Background: We aimed to evaluate the role of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) in determining the correct stage and predicting the pathological response.

Methods: Seventy one patients with pathologic proven rectal adenocarcinoma, clinical stage IIA-IVA, and neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT) were evaluated retrospectively. Radiotherapy was delivered 45-50 Gy in 25 fractions with concomitant oral capecitabine. Pelvic MRI, colonoscopy, and 18F-FDG PET-CT were performed before the neoadjuvant treatment (NAT). After NAT, MRI and PET-CT were performed for re-evaluation.

Results: The median follow-up time was 25 months (range: 3-57 months). Of the 71 patients who underwent NAT, 57 patients underwent surgery. Downstaging was recorded in 48 (84.2%) of 57 patients who underwent surgery. There was no statistically significant difference between both MRI and PET-CT with pathology results in terms of response evaluation. As a result of the comparison of MRI and PET-CT with pathological results; sensitivity and specificity were 91.6% (44/48) and 22.2% (2/9) for MRI, and 100% (47/47) and 12.5% (1/8) for PET-CT, respectively.

Conclusion: PET-CT and MRI are effective in predicting response to NAT and predictive for the pathological response. A more accurate response can be judged when both PET-CT and MRI are executed together in restaging after NAT.

Keywords: 18F-FDG PET-CT; MRI; neoadjuvant treatment; radiotherapy; rectal cancer.