Does recombinant human thyrotropin-stimulated positron emission tomography with [18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose improve detection of recurrence of well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma in patients with low serum thyroglobulin?

Pierre Vera, Caroline Kuhn-Lansoy, Agathe Edet-Sanson, Sebastien Hapdey, Romain Modzelewski, Anne Hitzel, Joelle d'Anjou, Jean-Pierre Basuyau
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2010, 20 (1): 15-23

BACKGROUND: Thyrotropin (TSH) stimulates thyrocyte metabolism, glucose transport, and glycolysis. The interest in using recombinant human TSH (rhTSH) stimulation of fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) with positron emission tomography (PET) has been shown, but mainly for patients with high serum thyroglobulin (Tg) concentration. We evaluated the use of rhTSH-stimulated PET-FDG in patients with low serum Tg concentration.

METHODS: Sixty-one PET/computed tomography (CT)-FDG (Biograph Sensation 16; Siemens Medical Solutions, Knoxville, TN) were performed in 44 patients (28 women and 16 men; 51 +/- 16 years) with positive Tg levels, negative or no contributive iodine-131 whole-body scintigraphy results, and no contributive morphological imaging results (ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and CT). Thirty-eight patients had papillary carcinoma and six had follicular thyroid carcinoma. All patients had previously undergone total thyroidectomy and postoperative iodine ablation of thyroid bed remnant tissue. The rhTSH-stimulated PET/CT-FDG (5 MBq/kg) was performed after two 0.9 mg intramuscular doses of rhTSH (Thyrogen; Genzyme) which were administered 48 and 24 hours before imaging, while patients continued levothyroxine (LT(4)). Blood sampling was performed immediately before FDG injection for measurement of serum TSH and Tg concentrations (TSH(1) and Tg(1)) and after 48 hours (TSH(2) and Tg(2)). PET/CT-FDG findings were compared with the Tg: (i) at the initial iodine treatment during T(4) withdrawal (Tg(ini)), (ii) under T(4) (Tg(T4)) within 3 months before the PET/CT-FDG, (iii) with Tg(1), and (iv) with Tg(2). PET/CT-FDG findings were correlated with the findings of histology, iodine-131 whole-body scintigraphy, morphological imaging, or clinical follow-up.

RESULTS: The mean Tg(ini) was 785 +/- 2707 microg/L for a TSH of 73 +/- 64 mU/L. The mean Tg(T4) was 7 +/- 15 microg/L (T(4) = 195 +/- 59 microg/day; mean TSH of 0.24 +/- 0.57 mU/L). Among the 44 patients, PET/CT-FDG findings were positive in 20 and negative in 24. Among the 61 PET/CT-FDG, 25 PET/CT-FDG were positive (41%). Among the 25 positive PET, the Tg(T4) values were less than 10 microg/L for 19, including 9 true-positive patients (20% of the 44 patients). There was no difference of PET/CT-FDG results (positive vs. negative) as related to the serum Tg concentrations (p = 0.99 for Tg(ini), p = 0.95 for Tg(T4), p = 0.07 for Tg(1), and p = 0.42 for Tg(2)). No relation was observed with PET/CT-FDG results and initial tumor size (p = 0.52) or node metastasis (p = 0.14).

CONCLUSION: In the diagnosis of recurrent disease in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma and low Tg level, the sensitivity of rhTSH-stimulated PET/CT-FDG seems to be low and no correlation was observed between PET/CT-FDG findings and Tg level. However, positive PET-FDG results have been found in 9/44 (20%) patients with serum Tg levels lower than 10 microg/L. Therefore, this series shows that a cutoff value of 10 microg/L for the Tg under T(4) is probably not the best criteria to select patient candidates for PET/CT-FDG examination to detect the recurrence of differentiated thyroid carcinoma.

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