PET/CT for the staging and follow-up of patients with malignancies

T D Poeppel, B J Krause, T A Heusner, C Boy, A Bockisch, G Antoch
European Journal of Radiology 2009, 70 (3): 382-92
Positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) complement each other's strengths in integrated PET/CT. PET is a highly sensitive modality to depict the whole-body distribution of positron-emitting biomarkers indicating tumour metabolic activity. However, conventional PET imaging is lacking detailed anatomical information to precisely localise pathologic findings. CT imaging can readily provide the required morphological data. Thus, integrated PET/CT represents an efficient tool for whole-body staging and functional assessment within one examination. Due to developments in system technology PET/CT devices are continually gaining spatial resolution and imaging speed. Whole-body imaging from the head to the upper thighs is accomplished in less than 20 min. Spatial resolution approaches 2-4mm. Most PET/CT studies in oncology are performed with (18)F-labelled fluoro-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG). FDG is a glucose analogue that is taken up and trapped within viable cells. An increased glycolytic activity is a characteristic in many types of cancers resulting in avid accumulation of FDG. These tumours excel as "hot spots" in FDG-PET/CT imaging. FDG-PET/CT proved to be of high diagnostic value in staging and restaging of different malignant diseases, such as colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, malignant lymphomas, and many more. The standard whole-body coverage simplifies staging and speeds up decision processes to determine appropriate therapeutic strategies. Further development and implementation of new PET-tracers in clinical routine will continually increase the number of PET/CT indications. This promotes PET/CT as the imaging modality of choice for working-up of the most common tumour entities as well as some of the rare malignancies.

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