PET/CT with (11)C-choline for evaluation of prostate cancer patients with biochemical recurrence: meta-analysis and critical review of available data

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2016 Jan;43(1):55-69. doi: 10.1007/s00259-015-3202-7. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Purpose: For the last decade PET and PET/CT with (11)C-choline have been proposed for the evaluation of prostate cancer (PC), but the diagnostic performance of (11)C-choline PET/CT is still a matter of debate. We performed a comprehensive review of the most important clinical application of (11)C-choline PET, restaging of patients with biochemical relapse, following a rigorous methodological approach and including assessment of the risk of bias. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature assessing (11)C-choline PET/CT for its accuracy in the diagnosis and ability to detect the site of recurrence of PC in the restaging of patients with biochemical recurrence after initial treatment with curative intent.

Methods: We performed a comprehensive literature search of PubMed and the Cochrane Library to determine the accuracy for the detection of the site of recurrence (prostate bed recurrences, metastatic spread to locoregional pelvic lymph nodes or distant metastases). Only studies with a reference standard (for prostatic bed histopathology, for histopathology or biopsy of distant metastases or a composite reference standard with clinical follow-up of at least 12 months, correlative imaging and clinical data) were included.

Results: Overall 425 studies were retrieved, of which 43 were judged as potentially relevant and 29 with 2,686 participants were finally included. Of these 29 studies, 18 reported results for any relapse, All 18 studies, with a total of 2,126 participants, reported detection rates. The pooled rate was 62 % (95 % CI 53 - 71 %). Of the 18 studies, 12 with 1,270 participants reported useful data to derive sensitivity and specificity. The pooled sensitivity was 89 % (95 % CI 83 - 93 %) and the pooled specificity was 89 % (95 % CI 73 - 96 %). Of 11 studies reporting results for local relapse, 9 with 993 participants reported detection rates. The pooled rate was 27 % (95 % CI 16 - 38 %). Six studies with 491 participants reported sensitivity and specificity. The pooled sensitivity was 61 % (95 % CI 40 - 80 %) and the pooled specificity was 97 % (95 % CI 87 - 99 %). Ten studies reported results for lymph nodes and distant metastases. For nodal disease, 7 studies with 752 participants reported detection rates. The pooled rate was 36 % (95 % CI 22 - 50 %). For bone metastases, 8 studies with 775 participants reported detection rates. The pooled rate was 25 % (95 % CI 16 - 34 %).

Conclusion: There is a significant amount of (11)C-choline PET data published showing a high degree of consistency in inclusion criteria, acquisition protocols and scan interpretation criteria. Furthermore, the quality of the data derived limited to the same standard of reference was acceptable. Despite a high variability in the observed prevalence of any relapse, the diagnostic performance of (11)C-choline PET was in line with previous meta-analyses. Our data confirm the very good accuracy of (11)C-choline PET for detection of lymph node metastases and/or distant lesions in a single examination in patients with biochemical relapse.

Keywords: 11C-Choline; Positron emission tomography; Prostate cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Radioisotopes*
  • Choline*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Recurrence
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Choline