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Br J Cancer. 2004 Apr 5;90(7):1349-60.

Can breast MRI help in the management of women with breast cancer treated by neoadjuvant chemotherapy?

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Cambridge Breast Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK.


Contrast-enhanced (CE) MRI was used to monitor breast cancer response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Patients underwent CE MRI before and after therapy, together with conventional assessment methods (CAM). CE MRI was carried out at 1.5 T in the coronal plain with 3D sequences before and after bolus injection. An expert panel determined chemotherapy response using both CE MRI and CAM. Histopathological response in the surgical specimen was then used to determine the sensitivity and specificity of CE MRI and CAM. In total, 67 patients with 69 breast cancers were studied (mean age of 46 years). Tumour characteristics showed a high-risk tumour population: median size 49 mm: histopathological grade 3 (55%): oestrogen receptor (ER) negative (48%). Histopathological response was as follows: - complete pathological response (pCR) 17%; partial response (pPR) 68%; no response (NR) 15%. Sensitivity of CAM for pCR or pPR was 98% (CI 91-100%) and specificity was 50% (CI 19-81%). CE MRI sensitivity was 100% (CI 94-100%), and specificity was 80% (CI 44-97%). The absolute agreement between assessment methods and histopathology was marginally higher for CE MRI than CAM (81 vs 68%; P=0.09). In 71%, CE MRI increased diagnostic knowledge, although in 20% it was judged confusing or incorrect. The 2nd MRI study significantly increased diagnostic confidence, and in 19% could have changed the treatment plan. CE MRI persistently underestimated minimal residual disease. In conclusion, CE MRI of breast cancer proved more reliable for predicting histopathological response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy than conventional assessment methods.

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