Quantification of intra-tumour cell proliferation heterogeneity using imaging descriptors of 18F fluorothymidine-positron emission tomography

Phys Med Biol. 2013 Jan 21;58(2):187-203. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/58/2/187. Epub 2012 Dec 21.


Intra-tumour heterogeneity is a characteristic shared by all cancers. We explored the use of texture variables derived from images of [(18)F]fluorothymidine-positron emission tomography (FLT-PET), thus notionally assessing the heterogeneity of proliferation in individual tumours. Our aims were to study the range of textural feature values across tissue types, verify the repeatability of these image descriptors and further, to explore associations with clinical response to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. The repeatability of 28 textural descriptors was assessed in patients who had two FLT-PET scans prior to therapy using relative differences and the intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC). We tested associations between features at baseline and clinical response measured in 11 patients after three cycles of chemotherapy, and explored changes in FLT-PET at one week after the start of therapy. A subset of eight features was characterized by low variations at baseline (<±30%) and high repeatability (0.7 ≤ ICC ≤ 1). The intensity distribution profile suggested fewer highly proliferating cells in lesions of non-responders compared to responders at baseline. A true increase in CV and homogeneity was measured in four out of six responders one week after the start of therapy. A number of textural features derived from FLT-PET are altered following chemotherapy in breast cancer, and should be evaluated in larger clinical trials for clinical relevance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dideoxynucleosides* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Treatment Failure
  • Young Adult


  • Dideoxynucleosides
  • alovudine