Dr. Paula de Robles, a Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta
Glioblastoma is the most common and deadly brain cancer in adults. During treatment, the evaluation of tumour response is performed by serial magnetic resonance images (MRIs). Oftentimes glioblastomas appear larger in these MRIs mimicking cancer progression; however, in 50% of these cases, the larger size of the tumour is a result of excessive inflammation secondary to an effective treatment and not to cancer progression. This phenomenon is called radiographic “pseudo-progression”. As there are no accurate methods to differentiate pseudo-progression from real tumour progression, many patients undergo unnecessary surgery or discontinue an effective treatment only to later discover the harmless reason for the increase in tumour size.
Our research focuses on developing a non-invasive method for diagnosing pseudo-progression by analyzing the features of MRIs with advanced techniques. The results of our research will allow physicians to better tailor treatment to individual patients. In the case of patients that are experiencing real tumour progression during treatment, this unsuccessful treatment can be discontinued and second-line therapies can be offered at an early stage, when the treatment has a higher chance of success. On the other hand, the accurate diagnosis of pseudo-progression will let patients continue with their effective treatment with confidence.