18F-fluorodihydroxyphenylalanine PET/CT in patients with neuroendocrine tumors of unknown origin: relation to tumor origin and differentiation

J Nucl Med. 2014 Mar;55(3):367-72. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.113.126896. Epub 2013 Dec 16.


This work was performed to evaluate the performance of (18)F-fluorodihydroxyphenylalanine ((18)F-FDOPA) PET/CT in detecting primary neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) occult on morphologic and functional imaging, in relation to tumor origin and differentiation.

Methods: A retrospective study of NET patients who were investigated with (18)F-FDOPA PET/CT imaging in 2 academic endocrine tumor centers was conducted. Only patients with negative conventional and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) results were studied.

Results: Twenty-seven patients were evaluated with (18)F-FDOPA PET/CT, 23 at their initial staging and 4 during their follow-up. The primary occult NET was localized by (18)F-FDOPA PET/CT in 12 patients (overall sensitivity, 44%; 52% in patients evaluated at initial diagnosis), leading to tumor resection in all cases. The primary tumors were distributed and graded as follows: 1 duodenum G2 lesion, 7 ileum G2 lesions, 2 terminal ileum G1 lesions, 1 pancreas G2 lesion, and 1 gallbladder G3 lesion. Patients with positive (18)F-FDOPA PET/CT results had higher values of serum chromogranin A (100% vs. 20%, P = 0.0003), serotonin, or urinary 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (83% vs. 20%, P = 0.003). Two false-negative results were related to poorly differentiated duodenal and prostatic NETs (G3). (18)F-FDOPA PET/CT showed more metastatic anatomic regions than SRS in 17 patients.

Conclusion: (18)F-FDOPA PET appears to be a sensitive functional imaging tool for the detection of primary NETs occult on SRS, especially tumors with a well-differentiated pattern and serotonin secretion.

Keywords: 18F-FDOPA; PET/CT; neuroendocrine; somatostatin receptor scintigraphy; unknown primary tumor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimodal Imaging*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnosis*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnostic imaging
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Receptors, Somatostatin
  • fluorodopa F 18
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine