PURPOSE: Tumor delineation within an atelectasis in lung cancer patients is not always accurate. When T staging is done by integrated 2-deoxy-2-[(18)F]fluoro-D-glucose ([(18)F]FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET)/X-ray computer tomography (CT), tumors of neuroendocrine differentiation and slowly growing tumors can present with reduced FDG uptake, thus aggravating an exact T staging. In order to further exhaust information derived from [(18)F]FDG-PET/CT, we evaluated the impact of CT density and maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) for the classification of different tumor subtypes within a surrounding atelectasis, as well as possible cutoff values for the differentiation between the primary tumor and atelectatic lung tissue. PROCEDURES: Seventy-two patients with histologically proven lung cancer and adjacent atelectasis were investigated. Non-contrast-enhanced [(18)F]FDG-PET/CT was performed within 2 weeks before surgery/biopsy. Boundaries of the primary within the atelectasis were determined visually on the basis of [(18)F]FDG uptake; CT density was quantified manually within each primary and each atelectasis. RESULTS: CT density of the primary (36.4 Hounsfield units (HU) +/- 6.2) was significantly higher compared to that of atelectatic lung (24.3 HU +/- 8.3; p 〈 0.01), irrespective of the histological subtype. The discrimination between different malignant tumors using density analysis failed. SUVmax was increased in squamous cell carcinomas compared to adenocarcinomas. Irrespective of the malignant subtype, a possible cutoff value of 24 HU may help to exclude the presence of a primary in lesions below 24 HU, whereas a density above a threshold of 40 HU can help to exclude atelectatic lung. CONCLUSION: Density measurements in patients with lung cancer and surrounding atelectasis may help to delineate the primary tumor, irrespective of the specific lung cancer subtype. This could improve T staging and radiation treatment planning (RTP) without additional application of a contrast agent in CT, or an additional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), even in cases of lung tumors of neuroendocrine differentiation or in slowly growing tumors with less avidity to [(18)F]FDG.
Type of Publication:
Journal article epub ahead of print