Purpose: We wanted to establish the range of (68)Ga-DOTA-TOC uptake in liver and bone metastases of patients with neuroendocrine tumours (NET) and to establish the range of its uptake in pancreatic NET. This would allow differentiation between physiological uptake and tumour-related somatostatin receptor expression in the pancreas (including the uncinate process), liver and bone. Finally, we wanted to test for differences in patients with NET, either treated or not treated with peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).
Methods: In 249 patients, 390 (68)Ga-DOTA-TOC PET/CT studies were performed. The clinical indications for PET/CT were gastroenteropancreatic NET (194 studies), nongastroenteropancreatic NET (origin in the lung and rectum; 46 studies), NET of unknown primary (111 studies), phaeochromocytoma/glomus tumours (18 studies), and radioiodine-negative metastatic thyroid carcinoma (21 studies).
Results: SUVmax (mean ± standard deviation) values of (68)Ga-DOTA-TOC were 29.8 ± 16.5 in 162 liver metastases, 19.8 ± 18.8 in 89 bone metastases and 34.6 ± 17.1 in 43 pancreatic NET (33.6 ± 14.3 in 30 tumours of the uncinate process and 36.3 ± 21.5 in 13 tumours of the pancreatic tail). A significant difference in SUVmax (p < 0.02) was found in liver metastases of NET patients treated with PRRT. There were significant differences in SUVmax between nonmalignant and malignant tissue for both bone and liver metastases and for pancreatic NET including the uncinate process (p < 0.0001). At a cut-off value of 17.1 the specificity and sensitivity of SUVmax for differentiating tumours in the uncinate process were 93.6 % and 90.0 %, respectively (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: (68)Ga-DOTA-TOC is an excellent tracer for the imaging of tumours expressing somatostatin receptors on the tumour cell surface, facilitating the detection of even small tumour lesions. The noninvasive PET/CT approach by measurement of regional SUVmax can offer important clinical information to distinguish between physiological and pathological somatostatin receptor expression, especially in the uncinate process. PRRT does not significantly influence SUVmax, except in liver metastases of patients with NET.