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SNMMI Press Releases

October 1, 2012

PET Predicts Early Response to Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Reston, Va. – Determining the optimal treatment course and predicting outcomes may get easier in the future for patients with head and neck sqaumous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) with the use of an investigational imaging agent.  Research published in the October issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine shows that positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with3’-deoxy-3’F-18-fluorothymidine (18-F-FLT) during treatment and early follow-up has the potential to predict therapeutic responses andidentify patients needingclose follow-up to detect persistent or recurring disease.

Typically, tumor response to therapy is monitored by assessment of tumor size change by anatomic imaging modalities. While several studies have shown that F-18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET may be used to assess response, the agent may produce false-positive findings. Authors of the study“Usefulness of 3’-Deoxy-3’F-18-Fluorothymidine PET for Predicting Early Response to Chemoradiotherapy in Head and Neck Cancer”sought to determine if F-18-FLT, a recently introduced imaging agent, would also be useful in predicting response to therapy for HNSCCs.

“In experimental models, reduced FLT uptake preceded reduced FDG uptake, suggesting that decreased cell proliferation precedes changes in glucose metabolism,” noted Hiroshi Hoshikawa, MD, lead author of the study. “However, there are few clinical studies comparing FLT-PET and FDG-PET findings for radiotherapy.”

In the study, 28 patients with HNSCCs underwent F-18-FLT and F-18-FDG PET imaging prior to treatment with radiation therapy, four weeks after the start of therapy and five weeks after the conclusion of therapy. Uptake of both of the agents was measured in primary and metastatic lesions.

During the radiation therapy, F-18-FLT uptake disappeared in 34 of 54 lesions (63 percent); the negative predictive value was 97 percent. F-18-FDG uptake also had a high negative predictive value (100 percent) during radiation therapy, but only nine lesions (16 percent) showed absence of FDG. In addition, the specificity and overall accuracy of F-18-FLT were significantly higher than F-18-FDG PET both during and after radiation therapy. These findings indicate that F-18-FLT PET is more useful for assessing early loco-regional clinical outcomes and helpful for avoiding unnecessary radical surgery.

“With the development of new molecular imaging agents, it’s now up to clinical researchers to utilize them to assess the characteristics of malignant tumors and their therapeutic response to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and molecular targeting therapy,” said Hoshikawa. “We hope that our findings will be helpful in understanding the significance of F-18-FLT-PET.”

Authors of the article “Usefulness of 3’-Deoxy-3’F-18-Fluorothymidine PET for Predicting Early Response to Chemoradiotherapy in Head and Neck Cancer”include Takehito Kishino, Hiroshi Hoshikawa and Nozomu Mori, Department of Otolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University, Kagawa, Japan; and Yoshihiro Nishiyama and Yuka Yamamoto, Department of Radiology, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University, Kagawa, Japan.

Please visit the SNMMI Newsroom to view the PDF of the study, including images, and more information about molecular imaging and personalized medicine. To schedule an interview with the researchers, please contact Susan Martonik at (703) 652-6773 or smartonik@snmmi.org.Current and past issues of The Journal of Nuclear Medicinecan be found online at http://jnm.snmjournals.org.

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About the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, a vital element of today’s medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated and helping provide patients with the best health care possible.

SNMMI’s more than 19,000 members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit www.snmmi.org.

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