Breast Cancer Subtypes and Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Systemic Review

Life (Basel). 2022 Mar 28;12(4):490. doi: 10.3390/life12040490.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive imaging modality for breast cancer detection. This systematic review investigated the role of quantitative MRI features in classifying molecular subtypes of breast cancer. We performed a literature search of articles published on the application of quantitative MRI features in invasive breast cancer molecular subtype classification in PubMed from 1 January 2002 to 30 September 2021. Of the 1275 studies identified, 106 studies with a total of 12,989 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Bias was assessed based using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Studies. All studies were case-controlled and research-based. Most studies assessed quantitative MRI features using dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) kinetic features and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values. We present a summary of the quantitative MRI features and their correlations with breast cancer subtypes. In DCE studies, conflicting results have been reported; therefore, we performed a meta-analysis. Significant differences in the time intensity curve patterns were observed between receptor statuses. In 10 studies, including a total of 1276 lesions, the pooled difference in proportions of type Ⅲ curves (wash-out) between oestrogen receptor-positive and -negative cancers was not significant (95% confidence interval (CI): [-0.10, 0.03]). In nine studies, including a total of 1070 lesions, the pooled difference in proportions of type 3 curves between human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive and -negative cancers was significant (95% CI: [0.01, 0.14]). In six studies including a total of 622 lesions, the pooled difference in proportions of type 3 curves between the high and low Ki-67 groups was significant (95% CI: [0.17, 0.44]). However, the type 3 curve itself is a nonspecific finding in breast cancer. Many studies have examined the relationship between mean ADC and breast cancer subtypes; however, the ADC values overlapped significantly between subtypes. The heterogeneity of ADC using kurtosis or difference, diffusion tensor imaging parameters, and relaxation time was reported recently with promising results; however, current evidence is limited, and further studies are required to explore these potential applications.

Keywords: breast cancer; diffusion weighted image; dynamic contrast enhancement; magnetic resonance imaging; quantitative values; subtypes.

Publication types

  • Review