PET in the diagnosis of neuroendocrine tumors

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Apr;1014:246-57. doi: 10.1196/annals.1294.027.


For general oncological imaging, positron emission tomography (PET) using [18F]fluoro-deoxy-glucose (FDG) has evolved as a powerful functional imaging modality. Unfortunately, FDG-PET has not been as advantageous for imaging gastropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and only tumors with high proliferative activity and low differentiation have shown an increased FDG uptake. Therefore, the 11C-labeled amine precursors L-dihydroxyphenylalanine and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP) were developed for PET imaging of these tumors. Because of the higher tumor uptake of the latter tracer in a study of patients with endocrine pancreatic tumors, 11C-5-HTP was chosen for further evaluation. In comparative studies of patients with carcinoids and endocrine pancreatic tumors, 5-HTP-PET proved better than CT and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy for tumor visualization, and many small, previously overlooked lesions were diagnosed by 11C-5-HTP-PET. The strong correlation found during medical treatment between the changes in the transport rate constant at repeated PET and those of U-HIAA indicates the possible use of 11C-5-HTP-PET also for therapy monitoring. By premedication of patients with Carbidopa orally before PET examination, in order to block the aromatic amino acid decarboxylase enzyme, the decarboxylation rate of 11C-5-HTP was decreased, leading to a higher tumor uptake and a considerably lower urinary radioactivity concentration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*