, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 801-811
Date: 07 Dec 2010

Current Evidence Base of FDG-PET/CT Imaging in the Clinical Management of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Emerging Significance of Image Segmentation and Global Disease Assessment

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Abstract

Increasingly, integrated positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging is playing a crucial role in the assessment of patients with known or suspected malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Based on the data reported in the literature, this combined modality is likely to become the instrument of choice for examining patients of MPM. The research on this subject has focused on the following five domains: (1) differentiation of MPM from other benign pleural diseases, (2) preoperative staging for the selection of appropriate candidates for surgery, (3) evaluation for therapy response and post-treatment surveillance for recurrence, (4) prognostication based upon the intensity of 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-d-glucose (FDG) uptake, and (5) planning of radiotherapy. These represent the bases for critical decision making in the management of mesothelioma, and FDG-PET/CT offers potential advantages over conventional CT imaging and thus can play a pivotal role in this regard. Optimal characterization of this potentially fatal disease with a high negative predictive value for MPM, superior capability for cancer staging initially and at the later course of disease, and ability for measuring therapeutic response and the precise determination of the target volume for radiotherapy planning represent distinct advantages of this promising molecular imaging tool. In this communication, we have explored the promising role of integrated FDG-PET/CT in the overall management of this serious malignancy. From the available data, the major role of PET-CT at present appears to be in the preoperative disease staging, response to treatment assessment, and post-treatment disease surveillance of MPM. In all these three areas, PET-CT convincingly shows better results than conventional anatomical imaging alone and thereby can aid in exploring novel therapeutic approaches. Disease prognosis and radiotherapy planning are evolving areas where this modality has demonstrated significant promise, but this has to be investigated further. The differentiating of MPM from benign pleural disease is a challenging issue; though in limited studies, it has shown promising results, single standardized uptake value (SUV) cutoff technique cannot be the optimal way for this purpose. Dual time point and delayed imaging helps further in this setting; however, more data require to be accrued in this area. We, in this review, have also discussed the feasibility of a new method of image segmentation based on an iterative thresholding algorithm, which permits definition of the boundaries of lesions based on PET images alone to provide lesional metabolically active tumor volumes, lesional partial volume corrected SUV (PVC-SUV) measurements, lesional PVC metabolic burden (PVC-MB) (calculated as the product of lesional MVP and lesional PVC-SUV), and whole body metabolic burden (WBMB) (calculated as the sum of lesional PVC-MB of all lesions). This global disease assessment, we believe, will be the way forward for assessing this malignancy with a non-invasive imaging modality.