Background: The oncological applications of positron emission tomography (PET) have gained widespread acceptance. This rapidly evolving technology has been applied successfully to colorectal cancer, but has not yet become part of routine clinical practice. This review considers (1) the biological basis for the use of PET in colorectal cancer, (2) the technical aspects of PET relevant to the referring clinician and (3) the application of PET to the management of primary and recurrent disease.
Methods: A Medline database search was performed for the period 1980-2000. Experience was also drawn from the first 40 patients with colorectal cancer investigated at this institution.
Results and conclusion: PET has a proven role, and is cost effective in the management of recurrent cancer and the monitoring of therapy. However, further evaluation is still required to justify its routine use for other indications in colorectal cancer. Development of new positron-labelled radio- pharmaceuticals, in parallel with advances in detector technology and innovative models for tracer production and distribution, means that the availability of PET and its applications in the management of colorectal cancer will expand over the coming years.