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Prognostic value of FDG PET imaging in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Despite several attempts at treating malignant pleural mesothelioma with various modalities, mortality remains high, with median life expectancy between 12 and 18 mo. This disease may have a highly variable clinical course, with occasional long-term survivors. The purpose of this study was to assess whether tumor metabolic activity, as assessed by fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET imaging, correlates inversely with survival rate.

METHODS: Twenty-eight patients with suspected mesothelioma underwent FDG PET scanning between September 1995 and May 1997. A diagnosis of mesothelioma was confirmed in 22. Fully corrected scans with attenuation correction of the entire chest were available in 17 patients with sufficient follow-up for survival analysis. Standardized uptake values (SUVs) were determined from the most active tumor site in each patient.

RESULTS: Seven patients died during follow-up, at a median period of 5.3 mo after FDG PET scanning. Follow-up information was available on the remaining 10 patients for a median period of 15.6 mo after the PET study. The mean SUV of the deceased patients was 6.6+/-2.9, compared with 3.2+/-1.6 among the combined survivors. The deceased patients had tumor SUVs that were highly correlated with duration of survival after the PET study (r = 0.87, P less than 0.05). The cumulative survival estimate by the Kaplan-Meier product limit method was 0.17 at 12 mo for the patients with tumor SUVs greater than the median value and 0.86 for those with lower SUVs. The survival distribution of the high SUV group showed significantly shorter survivals compared with the low SUV group (P less than 0.01).

CONCLUSION: Patients with highly active mesotheliomas on FDG PET imaging have a poor mesothelioma prognosis. High FDG uptake in these tumors indicates shorter patient survival.

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