PET in oncology: will it replace the other modalities?

Semin Nucl Med. 1997 Apr;27(2):94-106. doi: 10.1016/s0001-2998(97)80042-6.


Medical imaging technology is rapidly expanding and the role of each modality is being redefined constantly. PET has been around since the early sixties and gained clinical acceptance in oncology only after an extreme number of scientific publications. Although PET has the unique ability to image biochemical processes in vivo, this ability is not fully used as a clinical imaging tool. In this overview, the role of PET in relation to other tumor imaging modalities will be discussed and the reported results in the literature will be reviewed. In predicting the future of PET, technical improvements of other imaging modalities need to be dealt with. The fundamental physical principles for image formation with computed tomography (CT), ultrasound (US), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), photon-emission tomography (PET), and single photon emission CT (SPECT) will not change. The potential variety of radiopharmaceuticals which may be developed is unlimited, however, and this provides nuclear imaging techniques with a significant advantage and adaptive features for future biologic imaging. The current applications of PET in oncology have been in characterizing tumor lesions, differentiating recurrent disease from treatment effects, staging tumors, evaluating the extent of disease, and monitoring therapy. The future developments in medicine may use the unique capabilities of PET not only in diagnostic imaging but also in molecular medicine and genetics. The articles discussed in this review were selected from a literature search covering the last 3 years, and in which comparisons of PET with conventional imaging were addressed specifically. PET studies with the glucose analogue fluorine-18-labeled deoxyglucose (FDG) have shown the ability of detecting tumor foci in a variety of histological neoplasms such as thyroid cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, head and neck carcinoma, colorectal cancer, ovarian carcinoma, and musculoskeletal tumors. Also, the contribution of the whole body PET (WBPET) imaging technique in diagnosis will be discussed. In the current health care environment, a successful imaging technology must not only change medical management but also demonstrate that those changes improve patient outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / statistics & numerical data