BACKGROUND: Radiological imaging plays a central role in the diagnosis of breast cancer (BC). Some studies suggest MRI techniques like diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) may provide further prognostic value by discriminating between tumors with different biologic characteristics including receptor status and molecular subtype. However, there is much contradictory reported data regarding such associations in the literature. The purpose of the present study was to provide evident data regarding relationships between quantitative apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values on DWI and pathologic prognostic factors in BC.
METHODS: Data from 5 centers (661 female patients, mean age, 51.4 ± 10.5 years) were acquired. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) was diagnosed in 625 patients (94.6%) and invasive lobular carcinoma in 36 cases (5.4%). Luminal A carcinomas were diagnosed in 177 patients (28.0%), luminal B carcinomas in 279 patients (44.1%), HER 2+ carcinomas in 66 cases (10.4%), and triple negative carcinomas in 111 patients (17.5%). The identified lesions were staged as T1 in 51.3%, T2 in 43.0%, T3 in 4.2%, and as T4 in 1.5% of the cases. N0 was found in 61.3%, N1 in 33.1%, N2 in 2.9%, and N3 in 2.7%. ADC values between different groups were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test and by the Kruskal-Wallis H test. The association between ADC and Ki 67 values was calculated by Spearman's rank correlation coefficient.
RESULTS: ADC values of different tumor subtypes overlapped significantly. Luminal B carcinomas had statistically significant lower ADC values compared with luminal A (p = 0.003) and HER 2+ (p = 0.007) lesions. No significant differences of ADC values were observed between luminal A, HER 2+ and triple negative tumors. There were no statistically significant differences of ADC values between different T or N stages of the tumors. Weak statistically significant correlation between ADC and Ki 67 was observed in luminal B carcinoma (r = - 0.130, p = 0.03). In luminal A, HER 2+ and triple negative tumors there were no significant correlations between ADC and Ki 67.
CONCLUSION: ADC was not able to discriminate molecular subtypes of BC, and cannot be used as a surrogate marker for disease stage or proliferation activity.