Purpose: In patients with a neuroendocrine tumour (NET), the extent of disease strongly influences the outcome and multidisciplinary therapeutic management. Thus, systematic analysis of the diagnostic performance of the existing staging modalities is necessary. The aim of this study was to compare the diagnostic performance of 2 whole-body imaging modalities, [(68)Ga]DOTATOC positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with NET with regard to possible impact on treatment decisions.
Materials and methods: [(68)Ga]DOTATOC-PET/CT and whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (wbMRI) were performed on 51 patients (25 females, 26 males, mean age 57 years) with histologically proven NET and suspicion of metastatic spread within a mean interval of 2.4 days (range 0-28 days). PET/CT was performed after intravenous administration of 150 MBq [(68)Ga]DOTATOC. The CT protocol comprised multiphase contrast-enhanced imaging. The MRI protocol consisted of standard sequences before and after intravenous contrast administration at 1.5 T. Each modality (PET, CT, PET/CT, wbMRI) was evaluated independently by 2 experienced readers. Consensus decision based on correlation of all imaging data, histologic and surgical findings and clinical follow-up was established as the standard of reference. Lesion-based and patient-based analysis was performed. Detection rates and accuracy were compared using the McNemar test. P values <0.05 were considered significant. The impact of whole-body imaging on the treatment decision was evaluated by the interdisciplinary tumour board of our institution.
Results: 593 metastatic lesions were detected in 41 of 51 (80%) patients with NET (lung 54, liver 266, bone 131, lymph node 99, other 43). One hundred and twenty PET-negative lesions were detected by CT or MRI. Of all 593 lesions detected, PET identified 381 (64%) true-positive lesions, CT 482 (81%), PET/CT 545 (92%) and wbMRI 540 (91%). Comparison of lesion-based detection rates between PET/CT and wbMRI revealed significantly higher sensitivity of PET/CT for metastatic lymph nodes (100% vs 73%; P < 0.0001) and pulmonary lesions (100% vs 87%; P = 0.0233), whereas wbMRI had significantly higher detection rates for liver (99% vs 92%; P < 0.0001) and bone lesions (96% vs 82%; P < 0.0001). Of all 593 lesions, 22 were found only in PET, 11 only in CT and 47 only in wbMRI. The patient-based overall assessment of the metastatic status of the patient showed comparable sensitivity of PET/CT and MRI with slightly higher accuracy of PET/CT. Patient-based analysis of metastatic organ involvement revealed significantly higher accuracy of PET/CT for bone and lymph node metastases (100% vs 88%; P = 0.0412 and 98% vs 78%; P = 0.0044) and for the overall comparison (99% vs 89%; P < 0.0001). The imaging results influenced the treatment decision in 30 patients (59%) with comparable information from PET/CT and wbMRI in 30 patients, additional relevant information from PET/CT in 16 patients and from wbMRI in 7 patients.
Conclusion: PET/CT and wbMRI showed comparable overall lesion-based detection rates for metastatic involvement in NET but significantly differed in organ-based detection rates with superiority of PET/CT for lymph node and pulmonary lesions and of wbMRI for liver and bone metastases. Patient-based analysis revealed superiority of PET/CT for NET staging. Individual treatment strategies benefit from complementary information from PET/CT and MRI.