Decision logic for retreatment of asymptomatic lung cancer recurrence based on positron emission tomography findings

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1995 Jul 30;32(5):1495-512. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(94)00622-R.


Purpose: The purpose of the study was to determine if Positron emission tomography (PET) 2-[F-18] fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) imaging could detect subclinical local lung cancer recurrence and whether retreatment of such recurrence was feasible and beneficial.

Methods and materials: Twenty patients with biopsy proven lung cancer were studied with Positron emission tomography for the purpose of detecting subclinical lung cancer recurrence over a period of 4.25 years. All patients were treated with external radiation as part or all of their therapy. Twenty patients had baseline PET and computed tomography (CT) studies for comparison with later studies. Surviving patients had a total of 40 sequential PET scans and 35 CT scans. The follow-up interval ranged from 5 to 40 months posttreatment. The differential uptake ratio (DUR) was determined for regions of interest of increased FDG uptake.

Results: The median DUR value of the 20 baseline PET studies was 5.59. The DUR value of greater than 3 was empirically selected as being positive for tumor detection. On baseline studies, PET had a 100% correlation with the CT findings in regard to detection of the site of primary tumor involvement. Four of 20 patients showed areas of discordance in the mediastinal and hilar areas on initial PET and CT studies. Seven of 17 patients showed discordant posttreatment PET-CT findings. Two false positive PET studies were due to radiation pneumonitis and one to macrophage glycolysis in tumor necrosis. For detection of asymptomatic tumor recurrence, analysis of sequential PET and CT studies, biopsy results, and the patient's clinical course suggested that PET had a sensitivity of 100%, specificity of 89.3%, and accuracy of 92.5%. Computerized Tomography was found to have a sensitivity of 67%, specificity of 85%, and accuracy of 82% for detection of such early-stage recurrence. Five patients went on to have retreatment with external irradiation based upon the PET evidence. Four retreated patients had biopsies that corroborated the positive PET findings, and one patient was retreated on the basis of the qualitative appearance of the posttreatment PET study. Two of the five retreated patients remain alive without evidence of tumor to 34 months following initial therapy.

Conclusion: Positron emission tomography scanning appears to be effective in detecting and following the progression of recurrent lung cancer. Retreatment of patients with asymptomatic recurrent tumor has resulted in absent or decreased FDG activity. Monitoring of patients with PET may provide prolonged survival in patients who otherwise would fail treatment because of local tumor recurrence.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Deoxyglucose / analogs & derivatives
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Selection
  • Recurrence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Deoxyglucose