Background: Tumour apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) from diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a putative pharmacodynamic/response biomarker but the relationship between drug-induced effects on the ADC and on the underlying pathology has not been adequately defined.
Hypothesis: Changes in ADC during early chemotherapy reflect underlying histological markers of tumour response as measured by tumour regression grade (TRG).
Methods: Twenty-six patients were enrolled in the study. Baseline, 14 days, and pre-surgery MRI were performed per study protocol. Surgical resection was performed in 23 of the enrolled patients; imaging-pathological correlation was obtained from 39 lesions from 21 patients.
Results: There was no evidence of correlation between TRG and ADC changes at day 14 (study primary endpoint), and no significant correlation with other ADC metrics. In scans acquired one week prior to surgery, there was no significant correlation between ADC metrics and percentage of viable tumour, percentage necrosis, percentage fibrosis, or Ki67 index.
Conclusions: Our hypothesis was not supported by the data. The lack of meaningful correlation between change in ADC and TRG is a robust finding which is not explained by variability or small sample size. Change in ADC is not a proxy for TRG in metastatic colorectal cancer.