Purpose: This study investigated sequential changes in tumor blood supply using magnetic resonance (MR) perfusion imaging and assessed their significance in the prediction of outcome of patients with advanced cervical cancer. The purpose of this project was to devise a simple, noninvasive method to predict early signs of treatment failure in advanced cervical cancer treated with conventional radiation therapy.
Methods and materials: Sixty-eight MR perfusion studies were performed prospectively in 17 patients with squamous carcinomas (14) and adenocarcinomas (3) of the cervix, Stages bulky IB (1), IIB (5), IIIA (1), IIIB (8), and IVA (1), and recurrent (1). Four sequential studies were obtained in each patient: immediately before radiation therapy (pretherapy), after a dose of 20-22 Gy/ approximately 2 weeks (early therapy), after a dose of 40-45 Gy/ approximately 4-5 weeks (midtherapy), and 4-6 weeks after completion of therapy (follow-up). Perfusion imaging of the tumor was obtained at 3-s intervals in the sagittal plane. A bolus of 0.1 mmol/kg of MR contrast material (gadoteridol) was injected intravenously 30 s after beginning image acquisition at a rate of 9 ml/s using a power injector. Time/signal-intensity curves to reflect the onset, slope, and relative signal intensity (rSI) of contrast enhancement in the tumor region were generated. Median follow-up was 8 months (range 3-18 months).
Results: Tumors with a higher tissue perfusion (rSI > or = 2.8) in the pretherapy and early therapy (20-22 Gy) studies had a lower incidence of local recurrence than those with a rSI of < 2.8, but this was not statistically significant (13% vs. 67%; p = 0.05). An increase in tumor perfusion early during therapy (20-22 Gy), particularly to an rSI of > or = 2.8, was the strongest predictor of local recurrence (0% vs. 78%; p = 0.002). However, pelvic examination during early therapy (20-22 Gy) commonly showed no appreciable tumor regression. The slope of the time/signal-intensity curve obtained before and during radiation therapy also correlated with local recurrence. Follow-up perfusion studies did not provide information to predict recurrence.
Conclusion: These preliminary results suggest that two simple MR perfusion studies before and early in therapy can offer important information on treatment outcome within the first 2 weeks of radiation therapy before response is evident by clinical examination. High tumor perfusion before therapy and increasing or persistent high perfusion early during the course of therapy appear to be favorable signs. High perfusion suggests a high blood and oxygen supply to the tumor. The increase in tumor perfusion seen in some patients early during radiation therapy suggests improved oxygenation of previously hypoxic cells following early cell kill. Radiation therapy is more effective in eradicating these tumors, resulting in improved local control. Our technique may be helpful in identifying early-while more aggressive therapy can still be implemented-those patients who respond poorly to conventional radiation therapy.