Delineation of gross tumor volume (GTV) for radiation treatment planning of locally advanced rectal cancer using information from MRI or FDG-PET/CT: a prospective study

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2011 Nov 15;81(4):e439-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2011.03.031. Epub 2011 Jun 14.


Purpose: Accurate delineation of target volumes is important to maximize radiation dose to the tumor and minimize it to nontumor tissue. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are standard imaging modalities in rectal cancer. The aim was to explore whether functional imaging with F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET), combined with CT (FDG-PET/CT) gives additional information to standard pretreatment evaluation and changes the shape and size of the gross tumor volume (GTV).

Methods and materials: From 2007 to 2009, 77 consecutive patients with locally advanced rectal cancer were prospectively screened for inclusion in the study at two university hospitals in Sweden, and 68 patients were eligible. Standard GTV was delineated using information from clinical examination, CT, and MRI (GTV-MRI). Thereafter, a GTV-PET was defined in the fused PET-CT, and the target volume delineations were compared for total volume, overlap, and mismatch. Pathologic uptake suspect of metastases was also registered.

Results: The median volume of GTV-MRI was larger than that of GTV-PET: 111 cm(3) vs. 87 cm(3) (p < 0.001). In many cases, the GTV-MRI contained the GTV defined on the PET/CT images as subvolumes, but when a GTV total was calculated after the addition of GTV-PET to GTV-MRI, the volume increased, with median 11% (range, 0.5-72%). New lesions were seen in 15% of the patients for whom PET/CT was used.

Conclusions: FDG-PET/CT facilitates and adds important information to the standard delineation procedure of locally advanced rectal cancer, mostly resulting in a smaller GTV, but a larger total GTV using the union of GTV-MRI and GTV-PET. New lesions were sometimes seen, potentially changing the treatment strategy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimodal Imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Rectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Sweden
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Tumor Burden*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18