Aims and background: Mediastinal elective node irradiation (ENI) in patients with non-small cell lung cancer candidate to radical radiotherapy is controversial. In this study, the impact of co-registered [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography (PET) and standard computed tomography (CT) on definition of target volumes and toxicity parameters was evaluated, by comparison with standard CT-based simulation with and without ENI.
Methods: CT-based gross tumor volume (GTVCT) was first contoured by a single observer without knowledge of PET results. Subsequently, the integrated GTV based on PET/CT coregistered images (GTVPET/CT) was defined. Each patient was planned according to three different treatment techniques: 1) radiotherapy with ENI using the CT data set alone (ENI plan); 2) radiotherapy without ENI using the CT data set alone (no ENI plan); 3) radiotherapy without ENI using PET/CT fusion data set (PET plan). Rival plans were compared for each patient with respect to dose to the normal tissues (spinal cord, healthy lungs, heart and esophagus).
Results: The addition of PET-modified TNM staging in 10/21 enrolled patients (48%); 3/21 were shifted to palliative treatment due to detection of metastatic disease or large tumor not amenable to high-dose radiotherapy. In 7/18 (39%) patients treated with radical radiotherapy, a significant (> or =25%) change in volume between GTVCT and GTVPET/CT was observed. For all the organs at risk, ENI plans had dose values significantly greater than no-ENI and PET plans. Comparing no ENI and PET plans, no statistically significant difference was observed, except for maximum point dose to the spinal cord Dmax, which was significantly lower in PET plans. Notably, even in patients in whom PET/CT planning resulted in an increased GTV, toxicity parameters were fairly acceptable, and always more favorable than with ENI plans.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-PET should be integrated in no-ENI techniques, as it improves target volume delineation without a major increase in predicted toxicity.