Imatinib mesylate (Glivec, formerly STI571) is the first effective systemic treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs). Major changes in tumour volume, however, tend to occur late after the start of treatment. The aim of this study was to evaluate if [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) can be used for the early evaluation of response to imatinib mesylate treatment in soft-tissue sarcomas (STS). 21 patients (17 GIST, 4 other STS) underwent FDG-PET imaging prior to and 8 days after the start of treatment. PET response (European Organization for Research and Treatment (EORTC) guidelines) was observed in 13 GISTs (11 Complete Responders, 2 partial responders. Subsequent computerised tomography (CT) response Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST) was observed in 10 of these patients after a median follow up of 8 weeks. Stable or progressive disease was observed on PET in 8 patients and none of them achieved a response on CT. PET response was also associated with a longer progression-free survival (PFS) (92% versus 12% at 1 year, P=0.00107). We conclude that FDG-PET is an early and sensitive method to evaluate an early response to imatinib treatment.