Prognostic value of tumor burden measurement using the number of tumors in non-surgical patients with non-small cell lung cancer

Hao Zhang, Kristen Wroblewski, Yonglin Pu
Acta Radiologica 2012 June 1, 53 (5): 561-8

BACKGROUND: No study to test the feasibility and prognostic value of the number of primary tumors, the number of positive lymph nodes, and the total number of tumors in the whole body as tumor burden measurements on FDG PET/CT imaging has been reported.

PURPOSE: To determine whether the number of tumors seen in 18F-FDG PET scans can be a prognostic factor in non-surgical patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

MATERIAL AND METHODS: One hundred and forty patients with histologically proven NSCLC and baseline 18F-FDG PET scan before therapy were identified in this retrospective analysis. The total number of tumors (TTn) in the whole body, the number of primary tumors (Tn), positive lymph nodes (Nn), and distant metastases (Mn), along with the maximum standardized uptake values (SUV(max)) of the tumors were measured. Inter-observer variability of the total number of tumors, counted by two radiologists, was assessed. Survival analyses were performed to determine the prognostic value of the number of tumors.

RESULTS: Concordance correlation coefficients for the TTn, Tn, Nn, and Mn were all greater than 0.85. TTn and Nn were strong prognostic factors of NSCLC patients' overall survival (OS). In univariate Cox regression models, gender, stage, TTn, Nn, and Mn were statistically significant factors (P = 0.016, 0.032, <0.001, <0.001, and 0.006, respectively). In multivariate Cox regression models, TTn and Nn remained as statistically significant predictors for survival with hazard ratios (HR) of 1.06 (P = 0.001) and 1.11 (P = 0.002), respectively, after adjusting for clinical stage based 7th edition of TNM staging system, age, gender, and SUV(max). Patients with a TTn ≤4 (cutpoint based on median value) had a median OS of 15.2 months compared with 9.0 months for those with TTn >4.

CONCLUSION: Measuring the number of tumors on FDG PET imaging is easy to perform with minimal inter-observer variability. The total number of tumors and number of nodal metastases, as metabolic tumor burden measurements in 18F-FDG PET/CT, are prognostic markers independent of clinical stage, age, gender, and SUV measurement in non-surgical patients with NSCLC.

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