PET with radiolabeled aminoacid

Q J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2012 Apr;56(2):151-62.


Since the clinical introduction of FDG, neuroimaging has been the first area of PET application in oncology. Later, while FDG-PET became progressively a key imaging modality in the management of the majority of malignancies outside the brain, its neuro-oncologic indications faced some limitations because of the unfavourable characteristics of FDG as brain tumor-seeking agent. PET applications in neuro-oncology have received new effectiveness by the advent of positron-emission labelled amino acids, so that it has been coined the term "Amino acid PET" to differentiate this imaging tool from FDG-PET. Radiolabeled amino acids are a very interesting class of PET tracers with great diagnostic potential in neuro-oncology because of their low uptake in normal brain and, conversely, high uptake in most brain tumors including low-grade gliomas. The present article surveys the results obtained using L-[methyl-11C]Methionine (MET), that has been the ancestor of PET amino acid tracers and is still the most popular amino acid imaging modality in oncology, and stresses the important role that this diagnostic modality can play in the evaluation of brain tumors. However, the use of MET is restricted to PET centers with an in-house cyclotron and radiochemistry facility, because of the short half-life (20 min) of 11C. The promising results of MET have stimulated the development of 18F-labelled aminoacid tracers, particularly O-(2-18F-fluoeoethyl1)-L-tyrosine (FET), that has the same properties of MET and, thanks to the longer half-life of 18F (about 110 min), allows a distribution strategy from a production tracer site to user satellite PET centers. Considering a more widespread use of Amino acid PET, together with the recent development of integrated PET-MRI imaging systems, and the oncoming clinical validation of other interesting PET tracers, i.e. FMISO or 18F-FAZA for hypoxia imaging and FLT for tumor proliferation imaging, it can be reasonably expected that metabolic imaging with PET is close to becoming a key diagnostic modality in the management of brain tumors, as has already been for Total Body FDG-PET/CT in extra-brain oncology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Radioisotopes*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals


  • Amino Acids
  • Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals