Background: We theoretically derived a new quantitative metric reflecting the product of T1 signal intensity and contrast media concentration (T1C) using first principles for the signal provided by the gradient echo sequence. This metric can be used with conventional gadolinium contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (CE-MRI) exams. We used this metric to test our hypothesis that gadolinium enhancement changes with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) treatment response, and that this metric may differentiate responders from non-responders.
Methods: Out of 264 initially identified patients, a final total of 35 patients with PDA were included in a retrospective study of responders (n=24) and non-responders (n=11), which used changes in cancer antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) and tumor size as reference standards. T1C was computed for the pancreatic mass in the arterial, portal venous, and delayed phases in pre-treatment and post-treatment MRIs. Changes in measurements and correlations with treatment response were assessed by repeated measures analysis of variance and paired t-tests.
Results: In the treatment responder group, T1C significantly increased in the arterial, portal venous, and delayed phases (P=7.57e-5, P=3.25e-4, P=1.75e-4). In the non-responder group, T1C did not significantly change in any phase (P>0.58). Post-treatment T1C significantly differed between responders and non-responders (P=0.044) by repeated measures analysis of variance.
Conclusions: T1C significantly increases in all phases of CE-MRI in responders to treatment, but does not change in non-responders. T1C correlates with treatment response, can be computed from clinical MRI exams, and may be useful as an additional metric to stratify patients undergoing treatment.