An emerging evidence base for PET-CT in the management of childhood rhabdomyosarcoma: systematic review

BMJ Open. 2015 Jan 8;5(1):e006030. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006030.


Introduction: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) management depends on risk stratification at diagnosis and treatment response. Assessment methods include CT, MRI, bone scintigraphy, histological analysis and bone marrow biopsy. Advanced functional imaging (FI) has potential to improve staging accuracy and management strategies.

Methods and analysis: We conducted a systematic review (PROSPERO 2013:CRD42013006128) of diagnostic accuracy and clinical effectiveness of FI in histologically proven paediatric RMS. PRISMA guidance was followed. We searched 10 databases to November 2013. Studies with ≥10 patients with RMS which compared positron emission tomography (PET), PET-CT or diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) MRI to conventional imaging at any treatment stage were included. Study quality was assessed. Limited, heterogeneous effectiveness data required narrative synthesis, illustrated by plotting sensitivity and specificity in receiver operating curve (ROC) space.

Results: Eight studies (six PET-CT, two PET) with 272 RMS patients in total were included. No DWI-MRI studies met inclusion criteria. Pooled estimates were not calculated due to sparseness of data. Limited evidence indicated initial PET-CT results were predictive of survival. PET-CT changed management of 7/40 patients. Nodal involvement PET-CT: sensitivity ranged from 80% to 100%; specificity from 89% to 100%. Distant metastatic involvement: PET-CT sensitivity ranged from 95% to 100%; specificity from 80% to100%. Data on metastases in different sites were sparse. Limited data were found on outcome prediction by PET-CT response.

Dissemination and ethics: PET/PET-CT may increase initial staging accuracy in paediatric RMS, specifically in the detection of nodal involvement and distant metastatic spread. There is a need to further assess PET-CT for this population, ideally in a representative, unbiased and transparently selected cohort of patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Neoplasm Staging / standards
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / standards*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / standards*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals