Purpose: Functional imaging of cancer adds important information to the conventional measurements in monitoring response. Serial (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET), which indicates changes in glucose metabolism in tumours, shows great promise for this. However, there is a need for a method to quantitate alterations in uptake of FDG, which accounts for changes in tumour volume and intensity of FDG uptake. Selection of regions or volumes [ROI or volumes of interest (VOI)] by hand drawing, or simple thresholding, suffers from operator-dependent drawbacks.
Materials and methods: We present a simple, robust VOI growing method for this application. The method requires a single seed point within the visualised tumour and another in relevant normal tissue. The drawn tumour VOI is insensitive to the operator inconsistency and is, thus, a suitable basis for comparative measurements. The method is validated using a software phantom. We demonstrate the use of the method in the assessment of tumour response in 31 patients receiving chemotherapy for various carcinomas.
Results: Valid assessment of tumour response could be made 2-4 weeks after starting chemotherapy, giving information for clinical decision making which would otherwise have taken 9-12 weeks. Survival was predicted from FDG-PET 2-4 weeks after starting chemotherapy (p = 0.04) and after 9-12 weeks FDG-PET gave a better prediction of survival (p = 0.002) than CT or MRI (p = 0.015).
Conclusions: FDG-PET using this method of analysis has potential as a routine tool for optimising use of chemotherapy and improving its cost effectiveness. It also has potential for increasing the accuracy of response assessment in clinical trials of novel therapies.