Imaging Cancer Outlook

Lung cancer prognosis may be seen with PET scanning

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) One of the frustrating facts about cancer is that doctors can’t tell if it’s going to come back after treatment. This may be changing, though, for lung cancer. An imaging technology has been found to be able to predict who may need more treatment.

Positron emission tomography (PET) has been shown to accurately predict which lung cancer patients need more intensive treatment following standard therapy.

Researchers found that PET scans were able to see which tumors were more aggressive and likely to return.

PET scans could potentially help doctors design personalized treatment plans to extend the lives of lung cancer patients.

"Ask your oncologist about follow-up treatments you may need."

Mitch Machtay, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, OH, led this study with the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) in collaboration with Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

The study enrolled 250 patients with inoperable stage lll lung cancer from 60 US cancer centers. All of the participants had undergone standard chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Of this original group, 173 patients were evaluated. They received PET scans before and after their treatment.

PET scans show how organs are functioning. A radioactive material is injected, inhaled or swallowed and goes to the organ being imaged. Diseased areas show up as brighter areas, or what doctors call “hot spots” on the scan.

For this study, 14 weeks after chemotherapy/radiation, the researchers performed PET scans and looked at how rapidly tumors absorbed a radioactive sugar molecule known as FDG.

Since cancer cells absorb sugar faster than normal cells, areas containing cancer lit up brightly on the scan.

The researchers found that patients who had higher levels of FDG uptake had more aggressive forms of cancer, which meant there was a greater chance of the cancer returning, as well as lower survival rates.

"These findings have the potential to give cancer physicians a new tool to more effectively tailor treatments for patients with locally advanced lung cancer," Dr. Machtay said in a statement. "This cooperative group study determined that the PET scan can show us which patients have the most aggressive tumors, potentially enabling us to intensify their treatment."

The study also found that tumor control was associated with radiation dosage during standard therapy. The researchers wrote that additional research is needed on radiation technology for lung cancer.

This study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The National Cancer Institute funded the research.

Review Date: 
October 11, 2013
Last Updated:
October 13, 2013