Imaging for Response Assessment in Cancer Clinical Trials

Academic Article


  • The use of biomarkers is integral to the routine management of cancer patients, including diagnosis of disease, clinical staging and response to therapeutic intervention. Advanced imaging metrics with computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) are used to assess response during new drug development and in cancer research for predictive metrics of response. Key components and challenges to identifying an appropriate imaging biomarker are selection of integral vs integrated biomarkers, choosing an appropriate endpoint and modality, and standardization of the imaging biomarkers for cooperative and multicenter trials. Imaging biomarkers lean on the original proposed quantified metrics derived from imaging such as tumor size or longest dimension, with the most commonly implemented metrics in clinical trials coming from the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) criteria, and then adapted versions such as immune-RECIST (iRECIST) and Positron Emission Tomography Response Criteria in Solid Tumors (PERCIST) for immunotherapy response and PET imaging, respectively. There have been many widely adopted biomarkers in clinical trials derived from MRI including metrics that describe cellularity and vascularity from diffusion-weighted (DW)-MRI apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and Dynamic Susceptibility Contrast (DSC) or dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE)-MRI (Ktrans, relative cerebral blood volume (rCBV)), respectively. Furthermore, Fluorodexoyglucose (FDG), fluorothymidine (FLT), and fluoromisonidazole (FMISO)-PET imaging, which describe molecular markers of glucose metabolism, proliferation and hypoxia have been implemented into various cancer types to assess therapeutic response to a wide variety of targeted- and chemotherapies. Recently, there have been many functional and molecular novel imaging biomarkers that are being developed that are rapidly being integrated into clinical trials (with anticipation of being implemented into clinical workflow in the future), such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning computational strategies, antibody and peptide specific molecular imaging, and advanced diffusion MRI. These include prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) and trastuzumab-PET, vascular tumor burden extracted from contrast-enhanced CT, diffusion kurtosis imaging, and CD8 or Granzyme B PET imaging. Further excitement surrounds theranostic procedures such as the combination of 68Ga/111In- and 177Lu-DOTATATE to use integral biomarkers to direct care and personalize therapy. However, there are many challenges in the implementation of imaging biomarkers that remains, including understand the accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility of both acquisition and analysis of these imaging biomarkers. Despite the challenges associated with the biological and technical validation of novel imaging biomarkers, a distinct roadmap has been created that is being implemented into many clinical trials to advance the development and implementation to create specific and sensitive novel imaging biomarkers of therapeutic response to continue to transform medical oncology.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sorace AG; Elkassem AA; Galgano SJ; Lapi SE; Larimer BM; Partridge SC; Quarles CC; Reeves K; Napier TS; Song PN
  • Start Page

  • 488
  • End Page

  • 504
  • Volume

  • 50
  • Issue

  • 6