18F-FDG-PET/CT for the detection of disease in patients with head and neck cancer treated with radiotherapy

Nils Helsen, Dessie Roothans, Bert Van Den Heuvel, Tim Van den Wyngaert, Danielle Van den Weyngaert, Laurens Carp, Sigrid Stroobants
PloS One 2017, 12 (8): e0182350

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to evaluate the diagnostic performance of FDG-PET/CT for the detection of residual disease after (chemo)radiotherapy in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and to evaluate the prognostic value of the FDG-PET/CT findings.

METHODS: Patients with HNSCC who underwent FDG-PET/CT after (chemo)radiotherapy were studied retrospectively.

RESULTS: 104 FDG-PET/CT-scans were performed at a median of 13.2 weeks post-treatment (5.4-19.0 weeks). The diagnostic performance was time dependent with decreasing sensitivity and slightly increasing specificity over time. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV at 9 months after imaging were 91%, 87%, 77% and 95%, respectively. In a logistic regression model, the odds of a correct FDG-PET/CT increased with 33% every additional week after end of therapy (p = 0.01) and accuracy plateaued after 11 weeks (97%; p<0.001). A complete response on FDG-PET/CT was associated with an overall survival benefit (50.7 versus 10.3 months; p<0.001). Residual disease on FDG-PET/CT increased the risk of death 8-fold (p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: FDG-PET/CT is able to detect residual disease after (chemo)radiotherapy, with an optimal time point for scanning between 11-12 weeks after therapy. However, a reevaluation is probably necessary 10-12 months after the FDG-PET/CT to detect late recurrences. In addition, FDG-PET/CT can guide decisions about neck dissection and identifies patients with poor prognosis.

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