Diffusion-weighted MRI Findings Predict Pathologic Response in Neoadjuvant Treatment of Breast Cancer: The ACRIN 6698 Multicenter Trial

Change in apparent diffusion coefficient at diffusion-weighted MRI after 12 weeks of therapy is a noninvasive and quantitative imaging biomarker of response in women undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer.


To determine if the change in tumor apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) at diffusion-weighted (DW) MRI is predictive of pathologic complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Materials and Methods

In this prospective multicenter study, 272 consecutive women with breast cancer were enrolled at 10 institutions (from August 2012 to January 2015) and were randomized to treatment with 12 weekly doses of paclitaxel (with or without an experimental agent), followed by 12 weeks of treatment with four cycles of anthracycline. Each woman underwent breast DW MRI before treatment, at early treatment (3 weeks), at midtreatment (12 weeks), and after treatment. Percentage change in tumor ADC from that before treatment (ΔADC) was measured at each time point. Performance for predicting pCR was assessed by using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for the overall cohort and according to tumor hormone receptor (HR)/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) disease subtype.


The final analysis included 242 patients with evaluable serial imaging data, with a mean age of 48 years ± 10 (standard deviation); 99 patients had HR-positive (hereafter, HR+)/HER2-negative (hereafter, HER2-) disease, 77 patients had HR-/HER2- disease, 42 patients had HR+/HER2+ disease, and 24 patients had HR-/HER2+ disease. Eighty (33%) of 242 patients experienced pCR. Overall, ΔADC was moderately predictive of pCR at midtreatment/12 weeks (AUC = 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.52, 0.68; P = .017) and after treatment (AUC = 0.61; 95% CI: 0.52, 0.69; P = .013). Across the four disease subtypes, midtreatment ΔADC was predictive only for HR+/HER2- tumors (AUC = 0.76; 95% CI: 0.62, 0.89; P < .001). In a test subset, a model combining tumor subtype and midtreatment ΔADC improved predictive performance (AUC = 0.72; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.83) over ΔADC alone (AUC = 0.57; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.70; P = .032.).


After 12 weeks of therapy, change in breast tumor apparent diffusion coefficient at MRI predicts complete pathologic response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

© RSNA, 2018

Online supplemental material is available for this article.


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Article History

Received: Feb 8 2018
Revision requested: Mar 28 2018
Revision received: July 12 2018
Accepted: July 18 2018
Published online: Sept 04 2018
Published in print: Dec 2018