Context/objective: Approximately 15% of thyroid cancer patients develop subsequent metastases. The clinical course of patients with metastatic thyroid carcinoma is highly variable. We hypothesized that the metabolic activity of metastatic lesions, as defined by retention of 2-[(18)F]fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG), would correlate with prognosis.
Design/patients: The initial FDG-positron emission tomography (PET) scans from 400 thyroid cancer patients were retrospectively reviewed and compared with overall survival (median follow-up, 7.9 yr). We examined the prognostic value of clinical information such as gender, age, serum thyroglobulin, American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) stage, histology, radioiodine avidity, FDG-PET positivity, number of FDG-avid lesions, and the glycolytic rate of the most active lesion.
Results: Age, initial stage, histology, thyroglobulin, radioiodine uptake, and PET outcomes all correlated with survival by univariate analysis. However, only age and PET results continued to be strong predictors of survival under multivariate analysis. The initial American Joint Committee on Cancer stage was not a significant predictor of survival by multivariate analysis. There were significant inverse relationships between survival and both the glycolytic rate of the most active lesion and the number of FDG-avid lesions.
Conclusions: FDG-PET scanning is a simple, expensive, but powerful means to restage thyroid cancer patients who develop subsequent metastases, assigning them to groups that are either at low (FDG negative) or high (FDG positive) risk of cancer-associated mortality. We propose that the aggressiveness of therapy for metastases should match the FDG-PET status.