Purpose: To explore in a prospective trial the prognostic value of hypoxia imaging before and during radiochemotherapy in patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer.
Patients and methods: Twenty-five patients with stage III/IV head and neck cancer were investigated with [(18)F]-fluoromisonidazole (FMISO) PET/CT at four time points during radiochemotherapy (baseline, 8-10 Gy, 18-20 Gy,50-60 Gy). FMISO PET/CT image parameters were extracted including maximum-tumour-to-background (TBR(max)) and thresholded volume at different TBR ratios. CT volume and baseline FDG-PET/CT image parameters were also included. Parameters at all time points were investigated for their prognostic value with the local-progression-free-survival endpoint (LPFS). Significance was evaluated with multivariate Cox (including clinical parameters) and Log-rank tests.
Results: FMISO-image parameters were found to have a strong association with the LPFS endpoint, and were strongest at the week 1 and 2 time points (p = 0.023-0.048 and 0.042-0.061 respectively on multivariate Cox). Parameters measured at baseline were only significant on univariate analysis. None of the clinical parameters, and also FDG- or CT-delineated volumes, were significantly associated with LPFS.
Conclusion: This prospective, exploratory study demonstrated that FMISO-PET/CT imaging during the initial phase of treatment carries strong prognostic value. FMISO-PET/CT imaging at 1 or 2 weeks during treatment could be promising way to select patients that would benefit from hypoxia modification or dose-escalated treatment. A validation study is on-going.
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