The role of positron emission tomography using carbon-11 and fluorine-18 choline in tumors other than prostate cancer: a systematic review

Ann Nucl Med. 2012 Jul;26(6):451-61. doi: 10.1007/s12149-012-0602-7. Epub 2012 May 8.


To systematically review published data on the role of positron emission tomography (PET) or PET/computed tomography (PET/CT) using either Carbon-11 ((11)C) or Fluorine-18 ((18)F) choline tracer in tumors other than prostatic cancer. A comprehensive literature search of studies published in PubMed/MEDLINE and Embase databases through January 2012 and regarding (11)C-choline or (18)F-choline PET or PET/CT in patients with tumors other than prostatic cancer was carried out. Fifty-two studies comprising 1800 patients were included and discussed. Brain tumors were evaluated in 15 articles, head and neck tumors in 6, thoracic tumors (including lung and mediastinal neoplasms) in 14, liver tumors (including hepatocellular carcinoma) in 5, gynecologic malignancies (including breast tumors) in 5, bladder and upper urinary tract tumors in 5, and musculoskeletal tumors in 7. Radiolabeled choline PET or PET/CT is useful to differentiate high-grade from low-grade gliomas and malignant from benign brain lesions, to early detect brain tumor recurrences and to guide the stereotactic biopsy sampling. The diagnostic accuracy of radiolabeled choline PET is superior compared to Fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) PET in this setting. Radiolabeled choline PET or PET/CT seems to be accurate in differential diagnosis between malignant and benign thoracic lesions and in staging lung tumors; nevertheless, a superiority of radiolabeled choline compared to (18)F-FDG has not been demonstrated in this setting, except for the detection of brain metastases. Few but significant studies on radiolabeled choline PET and PET/CT in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and musculoskeletal tumors are reported in the literature. The combination of radiolabeled choline and (18)F-FDG PET increases the detection rate of HCC. The diagnostic accuracy of radiolabeled choline PET or PET/CT seems to be superior compared to (18)F-FDG PET or PET/CT and conventional imaging methods in patients with bone and soft tissue tumors. Limited experience exists about the role of radiolabeled choline PET and PET/CT in patients with head and neck tumors, bladder cancer and gynecologic malignancies including breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Choline*
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Choline