Efficacy of FDG-PET for defining gross tumor volume of head and neck cancer

J Radiat Res. 2013 Jul 1;54(4):671-8. doi: 10.1093/jrr/rrs131. Epub 2013 Jan 3.


We analyzed the data for 53 patients with histologically proven primary squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with radiotherapy between February 2006 and August 2009. All patients underwent contrast-enhanced (CE)-CT and (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET before radiation therapy planning (RTP) to define the gross tumor volume (GTV). The PET-based GTV (PET-GTV) for RTP was defined using both CE-CT images and FDG-PET images. The CE-CT tumor volume corresponding to a FDG-PET image was regarded as the PET-GTV. The CE-CT-based GTV (CT-GTV) for RTP was defined using CE-CT images alone. Additionally, CT-GTV delineation and PET-GTV delineation were performed by four radiation oncologists independently in 19 cases. All four oncologists did both methods. Of these, PET-GTV delineation was successfully performed in all 19 cases, but CT-GTV delineation was not performed in 4 cases. In the other 15 cases, the mean CT-GTV was larger than the PET-GTV in 10 cases, and the standard deviation of the CT-GTV was larger than that of the PET-GTV in 10 cases. Sensitivity of PET-GTV for identifying the primary tumor was 96%, but that of CT-GTV was 81% (P < 0.01). In patients with oropharyngeal cancer and tongue cancer, the sensitivity of CT-GTV was 63% and 71%, respectively. When both the primary lesions and the lymph nodes were evaluated for RTP, PET-GTV differed from CT-GTV in 19 cases (36%). These results suggested that FDG-PET is effective for defining GTV in RTP for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, and PET-GTV evaluated by both CE-CT and FDG-PET images is preferable to CT-GTV by CE-CT alone.

Keywords: FDG-PET; gross tumor volume; head and neck cancer; target delineation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnostic imaging*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Contrast Media / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Contrast Media
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18