Background: The diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is a challenging medical problem. CT often cannot differentiate between benign diffuse pleural thickening and malignant mesothelioma, while thoracentesis and CT-guided biopsies are insensitive. We have assessed the value of positron emission tomography (PET) with 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) in the evaluation of malignant mesothelioma.
Methods: Twenty-eight consecutive patients referred for the evaluation of suspected malignant mesothelioma were evaluated by FDG-PET imaging. Measured attenuation correction was performed in 26 of 28 cases for quantitation with the standardized uptake value (SUV) method. The results of PET imaging were compared with those of video-assisted thoracoscopy or surgical biopsies.
Results: Surgical biopsy specimens confirmed the presence of malignant disease in 24 patients and demonstrated benign processes in the remaining four. The uptake of FDG was significantly higher in malignant than in benign lesions (SUV=4.9+/-2.9 and SUV=1.4+/-0.6, respectively; p<0.0001). With a SUV cutoff of 2.0 to differentiate between malignant and benign disease, a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 100% could be achieved, although the activity in some epithelial mesotheliomas tended to be close to this threshold. FDG-PET images provided excellent delineation of the active tumor sites. Hypermetabolic lymph node involvement was noted on FDG-PET images in 12 patients, 9 of which appeared normal on CT scans. Histologic examination in six patients confirmed malignant nodal disease in five cases and indicated granulomatous lymphadenitis in one.
Conclusion: In this highly selected population, FDG-PET imaging was a sensitive method to identify malignant mesothelioma and determine the extent of the disease process.