Prospective study on diagnostic and prognostic significance of postoperative FDG PET/CT in recurrent colorectal carcinoma patients: comparison with MRI and tumor markers

Neoplasma. 2017;64(6):954-961. doi: 10.4149/neo_2017_613.


Current guidelines for follow-up after resection of colorectal cancer (CRC) recommend regular measurements of carcinoembryogenic antigen (CEA) and imaging tests. Multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are currently primary imaging modalities, while the role of fluorine-18-fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT), which is recommended in patients with negative MDCT and increased CEA, is still uncertain. Our aim was to compare diagnostic performance and prognostic significance of 18F-FDG PET/CT with MRI and tumor markers CEA and carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) in detection of recurrent CRC. This prospective study included 35 patients with resected CRC, referred to 18F-FDG PET/CT examination for suspected recurrence. During median follow-up of 24.4±1.5 months 18F-FDG PET/CT and MRI results and tumor marker levels were compared with findings of histopathological examination or with results of clinical and imaging follow-up. Management plan before the 18F-FDG PET/CT scan was considered and compared to the final treatment decision. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value and accuracy of 18F-FDG PET/CT and MRI in detection of recurrent colorectal cancer in patient-based analysis were 92.6%, 75%, 92.6%, 75% and 88.6%, and 65.4%, 66.7%, 85%, 40% and 65.7%, respectively. In lesion-based analysis the sensitivity of 18F-FDG PET/CT and MRI was 83.1% and 68.2%, respectively. The overall accuracy of CEA and CA 19-9 in recurrence detection was 48.6% and 54.3%, respectively. PET/CT induced therapy alterations in 13/35 (37.1%) patients. Progression was observed in 16/35 patients during follow-up, with significantly lower risk of progression in patients with treatment changes based on PET findings (Multivariate Cox regression; p=0.017). In addition, elevated CA 19-9 levels in time of PET scan and male gender carried significantly higher risk of progression (p=0.007 and p=0.016, respectively). Kaplan-Meier Log rank test showed significantly longer progression-free survival time in patients who had treatment plan changed based on PET/CT (p=0.046). We can conclude that 18F-FDG PET/CT showed better sensitivity and accuracy compared to MRI in detection of recurrent colorectal cancer, with much better sensitivity compared to CEA and CA 19-9. Patients with treatment changes based on 18F-FDG PET/CT had significantly better prognosis and longer progression-free survival, while elevated values of CA 19-9 and male gender were associated with worse prognosis.

Keywords: FDG PET/CT; colorectal cancer; magnetic resonance imaging; tumor markers prognosis..

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / analysis
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18