Impact of Tumor Size and Tracer Uptake Heterogeneity in F-18-FDG PET and CT Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Tumor Delineation

Mathieu Hatt*, Catherine Cheze-le Rest, Angela van Baardwijk, Philippe Lambin, Olivier Pradier, Dimitris Visvikis

*Corresponding author for this work

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The objectives of this study were to investigate the relationship between CT- and (18)F-FDG PET-based tumor volumes in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and the impact of tumor size and uptake heterogeneity on various approaches to delineating uptake on PET images.Twenty-five NSCLC cancer patients with (18)F-FDG PET/CT were considered. Seventeen underwent surgical resection of their tumor, and the maximum diameter was measured. Two observers manually delineated the tumors on the CT images and the tumor uptake on the corresponding PET images, using a fixed threshold at 50% of the maximum (T(50)), an adaptive threshold methodology, and the fuzzy locally adaptive Bayesian (FLAB) algorithm. Maximum diameters of the delineated volumes were compared with the histopathology reference when available. The volumes of the tumors were compared, and correlations between the anatomic volume and PET uptake heterogeneity and the differences between delineations were investigated.All maximum diameters measured on PET and CT images significantly correlated with the histopathology reference (r > 0.89, P <0.0001). Significant differences were observed among the approaches: CT delineation resulted in large overestimation (+32% ? 37%), whereas all delineations on PET images resulted in underestimation (from -15% ? 17% for T(50) to -4% ? 8% for FLAB) except manual delineation (+8% ? 17%). Overall, CT volumes were significantly larger than PET volumes (55 ? 74 cm(3) for CT vs. from 18 ? 25 to 47 ? 76 cm(3) for PET). A significant correlation was found between anatomic tumor size and heterogeneity (larger lesions were more heterogeneous). Finally, the more heterogeneous the tumor uptake, the larger was the underestimation of PET volumes by threshold-based techniques.Volumes based on CT images were larger than those based on PET images. Tumor size and tracer uptake heterogeneity have an impact on threshold-based methods, which should not be used for the delineation of cases of large heterogeneous NSCLC, as these methods tend to largely underestimate the spatial extent of the functional tumor in such cases. For an accurate delineation of PET volumes in NSCLC, advanced image segmentation algorithms able to deal with tracer uptake heterogeneity should be preferred.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1690-1697
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • F-18-FDG
  • tumor delineation
  • tumor volumes
  • tumor size
  • uptake heterogeneity


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