Purpose: To evaluate the effect of the use of (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) in radiotherapy target delineation for head-and-neck cancer compared with CT alone.
Methods and materials: A total of 38 consecutive patients with head-and-neck cancer were included in this study. The primary tumor sites were as follow: 20 oropharyngeal tumors, 4 laryngeal tumors, 2 hypopharyngeal tumors, 2 paranasal sinuses tumors, 9 nasopharyngeal tumors, and 1 parotid gland tumor. The FDG-PET and CT scans were performed with a dedicated PET/CT scanner in one session and then fused. Subsequently, patients underwent treatment planning CT with intravenous contrast enhancement. The radiation oncologist defined all gross tumor volumes (GTVs) using both the PET/CT and CT scans.
Results: In 35 (92%) of 38 cases, the CT-based GTVs were larger than the PET/CT-based GTVs. The average total GTV from the CT and PET/CT scans was 34.54 cm(3) (range, 3.56-109) and 29.38 cm(3) (range, 2.87-95.02), respectively (p < 0.05). Separate analyses of the difference between the CT- and PET/CT-based GTVs of the primary tumor compared with the GTVs of nodal disease were not statistically significant. The comparison between the PET/CT-based and CT-based boost planning target volumes did not show a statistically significant difference. All patients were alive at the end of the follow-up period (range, 3-38 months).
Conclusion: GTVs, but not planning target volumes, were significantly changed by the implementation of combined PET/CT. Large multicenter studies are needed to ascertain whether combined PET/CT in target delineation can influence the main clinical outcomes.