Purpose: To evaluate the use of carbon-11-labeled L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) and hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in the diagnosis of pancreatic endocrine tumors with positron emission tomography (PET).
Materials and methods: Twenty-two consecutive patients with clinically and biochemically verified pancreatic endocrine tumors were examined with computed tomography (CT) and PET with L-DOPA alone (n = 16) or both C-11-L-DOPA and C-11-5-HTP (n = 6).
Results: Tumor uptake of L-DOPA was found in 11 patients, eight of whom had metastatic disease. Heterogeneity of tracer uptake was noted among different lesions in the same patient (ie, high uptake in some lesions and low uptake in others). Results in patients examined with both L-DOPA and 5-HTP correlated well, but the uptake levels of 5-HTP were higher in two of three patients with positive findings. In two additional patients, CT enabled detection of tumors not detected at PET.
Conclusion: The current PET technique can be a valuable complement to CT in demonstration of functional pancreatic endocrine tumors, in particular, glucagonomas, but is less useful in detection of nonfunctional tumors.