The impact of PET and SPECT on dosimetry for targeted radionuclide therapy

Z Med Phys. 2006;16(1):47-59. doi: 10.1078/0939-3889-00291.


Targeted radionuclide therapy (TRT) is an increasingly used treatment modality for a range of cancers. To date, few treatments have involved the use of dosimetry either to plan treatment or to retrospectively ascertain the absorbed dose delivered during treatment. Also the correlation between absorbed dose and biological effect has been difficult to establish. Tomographic methods permit the determination of the activity volume on a macroscopic scale at different time points. Proper attenuation correction in tomographic imaging requires a patient-specific attenuation map. This can be obtained from scintillation-camera transmission scanning, CT or by using segmented scatter-emission images. Attenuation corrections can be performed either on the projection images, on the reconstructed images, or as part of an iterative reconstruction method. The problem of image quantification for therapy radionuclides, particularly for I-131, is exacerbated by the fact that most cameras are optimised for diagnostic imaging with Tc-99m. In addition, problems may arise when high activities are to be measured due to count losses and mis-positioned events, because of insufficient pile-up and dead time correction methods. Sufficient image quantification, however is only possible if all effects that degrade the quantitative content of the image have been corrected for. Monte Carlo simulations are an appealing tool that can help to model interactions occurring in the patient or in the detector system. This is helpful to develop and test correction techniques, or to help to define detectors better suited to quantitative imaging. PET is probably the most accurate imaging method for the determination of activity concentrations in tissue. PET imaging can be considered for pre-therapeutic treatment planning but ideally requires the use of a radioisotope from the same element as that used for treatment (e.g. I-124 for I-131; Y-86 for Y-90). Problems, however are that--some of the positron emitting isotopes have a shorter half-life--non-standard quantification procedures have to be performed--the availability of the radiopharmaceutical is presently limited; Many 3D-tools and -techniques are now available to the physicist and clinician to enable absorbed dose calculations to both target and critical organs-at-risk. The challenge now facing nuclear medicine is to enable this methodology to be routinely available to the clinic, to ensure common standard operating procedures between centres and in particular to correlate response criteria with absorbed dose estimates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals