Determination of tumour regression rates during radiotherapy for cervical carcinoma by serial MRI: Comparison of two measurement techniques and examination of intraobserver and interobserver variability
Gong QY., Tan LT., Romaniuk CS., Jones B., Brunt JNH., Roberts N.
Tumour regression rates of 11 patients with cervical carcinoma were estimated during external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) using serial MRI (average time interval 7 days; range 3-15 days). An average of five investigations (range 4-8) was performed per subject. Tumour volume was measured by two observers using the Cavalieri method of modern design stereology in combination with (a) planimetry and (b) point counting. The mean precision of all the volume estimates obtained by manually tracing the outline of the tumour was 6.6%. The mean precision obtained by counting an average of 176 points per investigation on the same transects was 6.7%. The intraobserver repeatability of planimetry, interobserver reproducibility of planimetry and point counting were excellent with no significant difference between the volume estimates obtained using either technique. Based on the planimetry measurements, initial tumour volumes ranged from 6.5 to 222 cm3(mean 63 cm3: median 44 cm3). Based on the point counting measurements, initial tumour volumes ranged from 7.2 to 235 cm3(mean 68 cm3, median 46 cm3). Tumour regression began within a few days of commencing EBRT and showed an exponential relationship with time (p < 0.01). There was good agreement between the regression rates obtained by planimetry and those obtained by point counting. No significant correlation was found between initial tumour volume and tumour regression rate for either planimetry or point counting. Planimetry measurements were, on average, obtained in about half the time taken for point counting (i.e. 30 min and 50 min, respectively). Although point counting is generally likely to be the more efficient approach, planimetry may be the preferred approach for estimating tumour volume when a purpose built track ball is available and the tumour morphology is relatively simple. Volume measurement should be obtained using the Cavalieri method to ensure that the estimates are unbiased and that their precision can be predicted. The measured tumour regression rates may have important implications for improving local tumour control, optimum timing of brachytherapy and minimizing the risk of radiation damage.