Microvascular changes are increasingly recognised not only as primary drivers of radiotherapy treatment response in brain tumours, but also as an important contributor to short- and long-term (cognitive) side effects arising from irradiation of otherwise healthy brain tissue. As overall survival of patients with brain tumours is increasing, monitoring long-term sequels of radiotherapy-induced microvascular changes in the context of their potential predictive power for outcome, such as cognitive disability, has become increasingly relevant. Ideally, radiotherapy-induced significant microvascular changes in otherwise healthy brain tissue should be identified as early as possible to facilitate adaptive radiotherapy and to proactively start treatment to minimise the influence on these side-effects on the final outcome.
Although MRI is already known to be able to detect significant long-term radiotherapy induced microvascular effects, more recently advanced MR imaging biomarkers reflecting microvascular integrity and function have been reported and might provide a more accurate and earlier detection of microvascular changes. However, the use and validation of both established and new techniques in the context of monitoring early and late radiotherapy-induced microvascular changes in both target-tissue and healthy tissue currently are minimal at best.
This review aims to summarise the performance and limitations of existing methods and future opportunities for detection and quantification of radiotherapy-induced microvascular changes, as well as the relation of these findings with key clinical parameters. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.