Research ArticleCancer

Magnetic resonance image features identify glioblastoma phenotypic subtypes with distinct molecular pathway activities

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Science Translational Medicine  02 Sep 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 303, pp. 303ra138
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa7582

Brain images create cancer clusters

When directing therapies toward tumors, a sample of the cancerous tissue is needed to identify molecular targets. For patients with glioblastoma, however, it is invasive to biopsy the brain. Itakura et al. sought to identify noninvasive determinants of tumor phenotype that would potentially correlate with molecular pathways, thus allowing for targeted therapy without such brain invasion. The authors used magnetic resonance imaging to look at solitary, unilateral tumors from 121 glioblastoma patients and then generated nearly 400 unique image features that could be used to describe each tumor. The tumors could be grouped into three different phenotypes or “clusters”: pre-multifocal cluster, with highly irregular tumor shapes; spherical cluster, with defined edges; and rim-enhancing cluster, with a hypointense center ringed by hyperintensity. The distinct clusters were further validated in a separate cohort of 144 patients. These clusters could be used to stratify patients not only according to molecular pathways for targeted therapy but also by survival, indicating the potential for such noninvasive image-based quantitative biomarkers to be used for patient prognosis.