As anticancer therapies designed to target specific molecular pathways have been developed, it has become critical to develop methods to assess the response induced by such agents. Although traditional, anatomic CT, and MRI examinations are useful in many settings, increasing evidence suggests that these methods cannot answer the fundamental biologic and physiologic questions essential for assessment and, eventually, prediction of treatment response in the clinical trial setting, especially in the critical period soon after treatment is initiated. To optimally apply advances in quantitative imaging methods to trials of targeted cancer therapy, new infrastructure improvements are needed that incorporate these emerging techniques into the settings where they are most likely to have impact. In this review, we first elucidate the needs for therapeutic response assessment in the era of molecularly targeted therapy and describe how quantitative imaging can most effectively provide scientifically and clinically relevant data. We then describe the tools and methods required to apply quantitative imaging and provide concrete examples of work making these advances practically available for routine application in clinical trials. We conclude by proposing strategies to surmount barriers to wider incorporation of these quantitative imaging methods into clinical trials and, eventually, clinical practice. Our goal is to encourage and guide the oncology community to deploy standardized quantitative imaging techniques in clinical trials to further personalize care for cancer patients and to provide a more efficient path for the development of improved targeted therapies.
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