Positron emission tomography of esophageal carcinoma using (11)C-choline and (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose: a novel method of preoperative lymph node staging

Cancer. 1999 Nov 1;86(9):1638-48. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19991101)86:9<1638::aid-cncr4>3.0.co;2-u.


Background: Accurate preoperative staging is an important but difficult problem in determining therapy for patients with esophageal carcinoma. Positron emission tomography (PET) is used with [methyl-(11)C]choline ((11)C-choline) and 2-[(18)F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose ((18)F-FDG) to detect a variety of malignancies. The authors used PET with both of these agents to detect lymph node metastases in patients with esophageal carcinoma.

Methods: Lymph node metastases in 33 patients with biopsy-proven esophageal carcinoma (16 patients with tumors classified as T1 and 17 patients with tumors classified as T2-4) was examined by PET using (11)C-choline and (18)F-FDG, and the accuracy of the results was correlated with pathology findings after surgery.

Results: (11)C-choline PET was more effective than (18)F-FDG PET and computed tomography (CT) in detecting very small metastases localized in the mediastinum. It was ineffective, however, in detecting metastases localized in the upper abdomen, because of the normal uptake of (11)C-choline in the liver. (18)F-FDG PET was superior to CT in detecting metastases in the mediastinum and the upper abdomen, whereas (11)C-choline PET was superior to (18)F-FDG PET in detecting metastases in the mediastinum. When (11)C-choline PET and (18)F-FDG PET were used in combination, they were very effective in evaluating the lymph node status in both the mediastinum and the upper abdomen, and detected 85% of the metastatic lymph nodes (n = 46).

Conclusions: In this study, the combination of (11)C-choline PET and (18)F-FDG PET was very effective in evaluating the lymph node status of patients with esophageal carcinoma preoperatively.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carbon Radioisotopes*
  • Choline*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Choline