OBJECTIVES: Better markers of early response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) in patients with breast cancer are required to enable the timely identification of non-responders and reduce unnecessary treatment side-effects. Early functional imaging may better predict response to treatment than conventional measures of tumour size. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that the change in tumour blood flow after one cycle of NACT would predict pathological response. METHODS: In this prospective cohort study, dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI was performed in 35 females with breast cancer before and after one cycle of epirubicin and cyclophosphamide-based NACT (EC90). Estimates of tumour blood flow and tumour volume were compared with pathological response obtained at surgery following completion of NACT. RESULTS: Tumour blood flow at baseline (mean ± SD; 0.32 ± 0.17 ml/min/ml) reduced slightly after one cycle of NACT (0.28 ± 0.18 ml/min/ml). Following treatment 15 patients were identified as pathological responders and 20 as non-responders. There were no relationships found between tumour blood flow and pathological response. Conversely, tumour volume was found to be a good predictor of pathological response (smaller tumours did better) at both baseline (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve 0.80) and after one cycle of NACT (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve 0.81). CONCLUSION & ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE: The change in breast tumour blood flow following one cycle of EC90 did not predict pathological response. Tumour volume may be a better early marker of response with such agents.
Br J Radiol