Objective: To evaluate the use of positron emission tomography using [(18)F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) to assess the response to neoadjuvant radiotherapy and chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced esophageal cancer.
Summary background data: Imaging modalities, including endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, currently used to evaluate response to neoadjuvant treatment in esophageal cancer do not reliably differentiate between responders and nonresponders.
Methods: Twenty-seven patients with histopathologically proven squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, located at or above the tracheal bifurcation, underwent neoadjuvant therapy consisting of external-beam radiotherapy and 5-fluorouracil as a continuous infusion. FDG-PET was performed before and 3 weeks after the end of radiotherapy and chemotherapy (before surgery). Quantitative measurements of tumor FDG uptake were correlated with histopathologic response and patient survival.
Results: After neoadjuvant therapy, 24 patients underwent surgery. Histopathologic evaluation revealed less than 10% viable tumor cells in 13 patients (responders) and more than 10% viable tumor cells in 11 patients (nonresponders). In responders, FDG uptake decreased by 72% +/- 11%; in nonresponders, it decreased by only 42% +/- 22%. At a threshold of 52% decrease of FDG uptake compared with baseline, sensitivity to detect response was 100%, with a corresponding specificity of 55%. The positive and negative predictive values were 72% and 100%. Nonresponders to PET scanning had a significantly worse survival after resection than responders.
Conclusion: FDG-PET is a valuable tool for the noninvasive assessment of histopathologic tumor response after neoadjuvant radiotherapy and chemotherapy.