PET imaging in oncology

Semin Nucl Med. 2000 Jul;30(3):150-85. doi: 10.1053/snuc.2000.7439.


The role of positron emission tomography (PET) during the past decade has evolved rapidly from a pure research tool to a methodology of enormous clinical potential. Perhaps the most striking development is the use of PET in oncology. PET imaging is approved in the United States for lung, lymphoma, colon, and melanoma cancer imaging. Data are accumulating rapidly to attest the efficacy of Fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) imaging in a wide variety of malignant tumors with sensitivities and specificities often in the high 90s. FDG uptake has been shown in tumors of the head and neck, ovary, breast, musculoskeletal system, and neuroendocrine system as well. The major role of PET has emerged as a reliable method for evaluating and staging recurrent disease. But it also has an important role in differentiating benign and malignant primary tumors. This has been shown particularly well in the differential diagnosis of solitary lung nodules. Although FDG has emerged as the dominant radiopharmaceutical for PET imaging in oncology, numerous other compounds are being evaluated. It is likely that more specific and efficacious compounds will be introduced during the next decade. F-18, because of its highly favorable physical characteristics, is likely to become the technetium of PET imaging. The next decade will witness an explosive growth of PET technology in oncologic imaging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18* / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Radiopharmaceuticals* / pharmacokinetics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • United States


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18