AIM: The concept of personalized medicine has brought increased awareness to the importance of inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity for cancer treatment. The aim of this study was to explore simultaneous multi-parametric PET/MRI prior to chemoradiotherapy for cervical cancer for characterization of tumors and tumor heterogeneity.
METHODS: Ten patients with histologically proven primary cervical cancer were examined with multi-parametric 68Ga-NODAGA-E[c(RGDyK)]2-PET/MRI for radiation treatment planning after diagnostic 18F-FDG-PET/CT. Standardized uptake values (SUV) of RGD and FDG, diffusion weighted MRI and the derived apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), and pharmacokinetic maps obtained from dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI with the Tofts model (iAUC60, Ktrans, ve, and kep) were included in the analysis. The spatial relation between functional imaging parameters in tumors was examined by a correlation analysis and joint histograms at the voxel level. The ability of multi-parametric imaging to identify tumor tissue classes was explored using an unsupervised 3D Gaussian mixture model-based cluster analysis.
RESULTS: Functional MRI and PET of cervical cancers appeared heterogeneous both between patients and spatially within the tumors, and the relations between parameters varied strongly within the patient cohort. The strongest spatial correlation was observed between FDG uptake and ADC (median r = - 0.7). There was moderate voxel-wise correlation between RGD and FDG uptake, and weak correlations between all other modalities. Distinct relations between the ADC and RGD uptake as well as the ADC and FDG uptake were apparent in joint histograms. A cluster analysis using the combination of ADC, FDG and RGD uptake suggested tissue classes which could potentially relate to tumor sub-volumes.
CONCLUSION: A multi-parametric PET/MRI examination of patients with cervical cancer integrated with treatment planning and including estimation of angiogenesis and glucose metabolism as well as MRI diffusion and perfusion parameters is feasible. A combined analysis of functional imaging parameters indicates a potential of multi-parametric PET/MRI to contribute to a better characterization of tumor heterogeneity than the modalities alone. However, the study is based on small patient numbers and further studies are needed prior to the future design of individually adapted treatment approaches based on multi-parametric functional imaging.
- Cervical cancer
- Multi-parametric imaging
- Tumor heterogeneity