Date: 04 May 2004

Biological characterisation of breast cancer by means of PET

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Breast cancer is associated with increased glucose consumption and can therefore be visualised with the glucose analogue [18F]2-deoxy-2-fluoro-d-glucose (FDG) and positron emission tomography (PET). FDG uptake in the primary tumour can vary substantially, and specific tumour characteristics have been demonstrated to determine the degree of glucose metabolism. Factors with a major influence on FDG uptake in breast cancer comprise expression of glucose transporter Glut-1 and hexokinase I, number of viable tumour cells per volume, histological subtype, tumour grading, microvessel density and proliferative activity. Recently, an association between high FDG uptake and a worse prognosis was suggested. Several studies have been performed correlating FDG uptake with a variety of prognostic and molecular biomarkers as well as parameters predicting tumour response to therapy. However, a correlation with important clinical prognostic markers such as axillary lymph node status and size of the primary tumour, expression of oestrogen and progesterone receptors, proto-oncogene c-erbB-2 or VEGF could not be demonstrated. The lack of correlation with important markers of prognosis does not suggest that FDG uptake might be used as a prognostic criterion in breast cancer. Innovative radiotracers for specific imaging of tumoural perfusion ([15O]H2O), hormone receptor expression ([18F]FES), protein synthesis ([11C]methionine), proliferation rate ([18F]FLT) or bone mineralisation ([18F]fluoride) may provide additional information compared with that provided by FDG PET.