Objective: The objective of this study was to assess causative pathological factors associated with diffusion restriction on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) in patients who achieved pathological complete response (pCR) after treatment with neoadjuvant chemoradiation therapy (CRT) for locally advanced rectal cancer. Methods: In total, 43 patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (≥T3 or lymph node positive) who underwent neoadjuvant CRT, subsequent surgery and ultimately achieved pCR were enrolled. All patients underwent pre- and post-CRT 3.0 T rectal MRI with DWI. Two radiologists blinded to pathological staging reviewed pre- and post-CRT 3.0 T rectal MRI for the presence of diffusion restriction in the corresponding tumour areas on post-CRT DWI, with a third radiologist arbitrating any disagreement. The consensus of these findings was then correlated with pathological data such as intramural mucin and the degree of proctitis and mural fibrosis seen on surgical specimen. Additionally, the pre-CRT tumour volume was measured to define the effect of this variable on the degree of radiation proctitis and fibrosis, as well as the presence of intramural mucin. Results: Diffusion restriction occurred in 18 subjects (41.9%), while 25 subjects remained diffusion restriction-free (58.1%). The diffusion restriction group tended to have more severe proctitis and mural fibrosis when compared with non-diffusion restriction group (p<0.001). Intramural mucin was also more common in the diffusion restriction group (p=0.052). Higher pre-CRT tumour volumes were significantly predictive of the degree of proctitis (p=0.0247) and fibrosis (p=0.0445), but not the presence of intramural mucin (p=0.0944). Proctitis and mural fibrosis severity were also identified as independent pathological risk factors for diffusion restriction on multivariate analysis (p=0.0073 and 0.0011, respectively). Conclusion: Both radiation-induced proctitis and fibrosis were significant and independent predictors of diffusion restriction in patients achieving pCR after treatment with neoadjuvant CRT for locally advanced rectal cancer, and pre-CRT tumour volume significantly affects both variables.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging