Equivocal end-of-therapy imaging findings do not predict a higher risk of local relapse after definitive radiotherapy in pediatric Ewing sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2023 May;70(5):e29989. doi: 10.1002/pbc.29989. Epub 2023 Feb 1.


Background: Posttherapy imaging studies can provide reassurance or induce anxiety regarding risk of recurrence for patients and their families. In some cases, it is difficult to determine if imaging findings represent posttreatment changes or residual disease. Equivocal radiographic findings can occur due to therapy-related inflammation or residual, inactive soft tissue masses, but it is unknown if such findings indicate an increased likelihood of local recurrence. The aim of this study was to assess the value of initial posttherapy scans for predicting local relapse in patients with Ewing sarcoma (EWS) or rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) who received radiotherapy (RT) for local control. These findings are critical to inform clinicians' surveillance recommendations and ability to accurately counsel patients and their families.

Procedure: The primary endpoint was time to local progression (LP). Patients were classified as having posttherapy scans that were "positive" (residual disease within the RT field), "negative" (no evidence of residual disease within the RT field), or "equivocal" (no determination could be made). The value of initial posttreatment scans for predicting LP was assessed using positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV).

Results: Negative imaging findings (n = 51) had an NPV of 88%, and positive imaging findings (n = 1) had a PPV of 100%. When equivocal findings (n = 16) were categorized with negative results (i.e., positive vs. equivocal/negative), the NPV was 90%. When equivocal findings were categorized with positive results (equivocal/positive vs. negative), the PPV was 12%.

Conclusion: Equivocal findings within the RT field on end-of-therapy imaging studies indicate no higher risk of local recurrence than negative findings. These results may contribute to appropriate surveillance schedules and accurate counseling of patients with RMS and EWS who have received RT for local control.

Keywords: Ewing sarcoma; MRI; PET; rhabdomyosarcoma.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma* / radiotherapy
  • Sarcoma*
  • Sarcoma, Ewing* / diagnostic imaging
  • Sarcoma, Ewing* / radiotherapy