Purpose: To quantify changes in fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-avid tumor volume on positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) during the course of radiation therapy and examine its potential use in adaptive radiotherapy for tumor dose escalation or normal tissue sparing in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Methods and materials: As part of a pilot study, patients with Stage I-III NSCLC underwent FDG-PET/CT before radiotherapy (RT) and in mid-RT (after 40-50 Gy). Gross tumor volumes were contoured on CT and PET scans obtained before and during RT. Three-dimensional conformal RT plans were generated for each patient, first using only pretreatment CT scans. Mid-RT PET volumes were then used to design boost fields.
Results: Fourteen patients with FDG-avid tumors were assessed. Two patients had a complete metabolic response, and 2 patients had slightly increased FDG uptake in the adjacent lung tissue. Mid-RT PET scans were useful in the 10 remaining patients. Mean decreases in CT and PET tumor volumes were 26% (range, +15% to -75%) and 44% (range, +10% to -100%), respectively. Designing boosts based on mid-RT PET allowed for a meaningful dose escalation of 30-102 Gy (mean, 58 Gy) or a reduction in normal tissue complication probability (NTCP) of 0.4-3% (mean, 2%) in 5 of 6 patients with smaller yet residual tumor volumes.
Conclusions: Tumor metabolic activity and volume can change significantly after 40-50 Gy of RT. Using mid-RT PET volumes, tumor dose can be significantly escalated or NTCP reduced. Clinical studies evaluating patient outcome after PET-based adaptive RT are ongoing.