MRIs can Predict Disease Course

Rectal cancer course predicted with MRIs

(RxWiki News) Because rectal cancer is usually discovered at an advanced stage, chemotherapy and/or radiation are often given to shrink the tumor before surgery. Measuring the effectiveness of these treatments can predict the course of the disease.

Researchers have discovered they can determine the outcome for patients with advanced rectal cancer when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to evaluate the impact of neoadjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy or radiation.

"MRIs prior to surgery predict rectal cancer survival."

The study suggests that using MRIs could help physicians manage patient care by changing the type or intensity of therapies, or altering surgical plans based on the imaging studies.

The study called MERCURY measured the shrinkage of tumors in 111 patients who had received radiotherapy or both chemotherapy and radiation (chemoradiation) to treat advanced rectal cancer. This group was followed for five years.

Researchers compared patients who, according to their MRI results, responded well to neoadjuvant therapies to those who did not and found:

  • 72 percent of good responders were living five years later, compared to 27 percent of those who responded poorly to the therapies.
  • Disease-free survival was 64 percent vs. 31 percent.
  • Local recurrence was 12 percent vs. 28 percent based on tumor margins.

The next step will be to conduct additional research to learn if response rates can be used to design the best treatment approaches, said lead author, Dr. Gina Brown, consultant radiologist and honorary senior lecturer in the Department of Radiology at the Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Trust in Sutton, UK.

Results from this study are published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Review Date: 
September 4, 2011