There is limited evidence that imaging biomarkers can predict subsequent response to therapy. Such prognostic and/or predictive biomarkers would facilitate development of personalised medicine. We hypothesised that pre-treatment measurement of the heterogeneity of tumour vascular enhancement could predict clinical outcome following combination anti-angiogenic and cytotoxic chemotherapy in colorectal cancer (CRC) liver metastases.
Ten patients with 26 CRC liver metastases had two dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) examinations before starting first-line bevacizumab and FOLFOX-6. Pre-treatment biomarkers of tumour microvasculature were computed and a regression analysis was performed against the post-treatment change in tumour volume after five cycles of therapy. The ability of the resulting linear model to predict tumour shrinkage was evaluated using leave-one-out validation. Robustness to inter-visit variation was investigated using data from a second baseline scan.
In all, 86% of the variance in post-treatment tumour shrinkage was explained by the median extravascular extracellular volume (ve), tumour enhancing fraction (EF), and microvascular uniformity (assessed with the fractal measure box dimension, d0) (R2=0.86, P<0.00005). Other variables, including baseline volume were not statistically significant. Median prediction error was 12%. Equivalent results were obtained from the second scan.
Traditional image analyses may over-simplify tumour biology. Measuring microvascular heterogeneity may yield important prognostic and/or predictive biomarkers.