Fluorine-18 labelled fluoro-2-deoxy- d-glucose ((18)FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) imaging demonstrates the increased glucose consumption of malignant cells, but problems with specificity have led to the development of new PET tracers. [(18)F]3'-deoxy-3'-fluorothymidine ((18)FLT) is a new tracer which images cellular proliferation by entering the salvage pathway of DNA synthesis. In this study we compared the cellular uptake of (18)FLT and (18)FDG in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). Seventeen patients with 50 primary or metastatic CRC lesions were prospectively recruited. Lesions were initially identified using computed tomography. Patients underwent both (18)FDG and (18)FLT scanning. Semi-quantitative analysis of tracer uptake was carried out using standardised uptake values. All the primary tumours ( n=6) were visualised by both tracers, with (18)FDG showing on average twice the uptake of (18)FLT. Similar uptake of both tracers was seen in lung and peritoneal lesions, with (18)FLT imaging five of the six lung lesions and all of the peritoneal lesions. Of the 32 colorectal liver metastases, 11 (34%) were seen as avid for (18)FLT, compared with 31 (97%) for (18)FDG. No correlation was seen between the uptake of the two tracers ( R(2)=0.03). (18)FLT shows a high sensitivity in the detection of extrahepatic disease but poor sensitivity for the imaging of colorectal liver metastases, making it unlikely to have a role as a diagnostic tracer in CRC. We have demonstrated that (18)FDG and (18)FLT image two distinct processes. The prognostic implications of the uptake of (18)FLT need to be assessed in terms of response to chemoradiotherapy and survival.