FDG-PET/CT imaging for preradiotherapy staging of head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma

David L. Schwartz, Eric Ford, Joseph Rajendran, Bevan Yueh, Marc D. Coltrera, Jeffery Virgin, Yoshimi Anzai, David Haynor, Barbara Lewellyn, David Mattes, Juergen Meyer, Mark Phillips, Michael Leblanc, Paul Kinahan, Kenneth Krohn, Janet Eary, George E. Laramore

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201 Scopus citations


Purpose Image localization of head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma lags behind current techniques to deliver a precise radiation dose with intensity-modulated radiotherapy. This pilot study prospectively examined the use of registered 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET)/CT for preradiotherapy staging of the neck. Methods and materials Sixty-three patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, or hypopharynx were enrolled into an institutional FDG-PET imaging protocol between September 2000 and June 2003. Of these patients, 20 went on to immediate neck dissection surgery and were studied further. Of these 20, 17 (85%) had American Joint Committee on Cancer Stage III or IV disease. All patients underwent preoperative FDG-PET and contrast-enhanced CT of the head and neck. FDG-PET/CT images were created using a nonrigid image registration algorithm developed at the University of Washington. Alternate primary and nodal gross tumor volumes were contoured with radiotherapy treatment planning software, blinded to each other and to the pathology results. One set of volumes was designed with CT guidance alone and the other with the corresponding FDG-PET/CT images. Neck dissection specimens were subdivided into surgical nodal levels intraoperatively, and the histopathologic findings were correlated with the CT and FDG-PET/CT nodal level findings. Results FDG-PET/CT detected 17 of 17 heminecks and 26 of 27 nodal zones histologically positive by dissection (100% and 96% sensitivity, respectively). The nodal level staging sensitivity and specificity for FDG-PET/CT was 96% (26 of 27) and 98.5% (68 of 69), respectively. FDG-PET/CT correctly detected nodal disease in 2 patients considered to have node-negative disease by CT alone. Agreement between the imaging results and pathology findings was stronger for FDG-PET/CT (κ 0.95, 95% confidence interval 0.82-0.99) than for CT alone (κ 0.81, 95% confidence interval 0.63-0.91; p = 0.06 by two-sided McNemar's testing). Conclusion These early findings suggest that FDG-PET/CT is superior to CT alone for geographic localization of diseased neck node levels. Confirmatory trials to substantiate the accuracy of FDG-PET/CT neck staging should be prioritized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-136
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Cancer staging
  • Head-and-neck cancer
  • Image-guided radiotherapy
  • Multimodality imaging
  • Positron emission tomography


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