School of Medicine, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan 20126, Italy.
Division of Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology, Madonna delle Grazie Hospital, Matera 75100, Italy.
Department of Radiology, University of Brescia "Spedali Civili", Brescia 25123, Italy.
Department of Surgical Sciences, Radiology Unit, University of Turin, Turin 10126, Italy.
Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the liver is an important tool for the detection and characterization of focal liver lesions and for assessment of diffuse liver disease, having several intrinsic characteristics, represented by high soft tissue contrast, avoidance of ionizing radiation or iodinated contrast media, and more recently, by application of several functional imaging techniques (i.e., diffusion-weighted sequences, hepatobiliary contrast agents, perfusion imaging, magnetic resonance (MR)-elastography, and radiomics analysis). MR functional imaging techniques are extensively used both in routine practice and in the field of clinical and pre-clinical research because, through a qualitative rather than quantitative approach, they can offer valuable information about tumor tissue and tissue architecture, cellular biomarkers related to the hepatocellular functions, or tissue vascularization profiles related to tumor and tissue biology. This kind of approach offers in vivo physiological parameters, capable of evaluating physiological and pathological modifications of tissues, by the analysis of quantitative data that could be used in tumor detection, characterization, treatment selection, and follow-up, in addition to those obtained from standard morphological imaging. In this review we provide an overview of recent advanced techniques in MR for the diagnosis and staging of hepatocellular carcinoma, and their role in the assessment of response treatment evaluation.