Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 413–419 | Cite as

Preliminary investigation of brown adipose tissue assessed by PET/CT and cancer activity

  • Stijn A. Bos
  • Corey M. Gill
  • Edgar L. Martinez-Salazar
  • Martin Torriani
  • Miriam A. BredellaEmail author
Scientific Article



To determine the role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in cancer activity.

Materials and methods

The study group comprised 142 patients (121 female, 21 male; mean age, 49 ± 16 years) who underwent F18-FDG PET/CT (PET/CT) for staging or surveillance of cancer and who were BAT-positive on PET/CT. BAT volume by PET/CT, abdominal (visceral and subcutaneous) fat and paraspinous muscle cross-sectional areas (CSA) were assessed. Groups with and without active cancer on PET/CT were compared using a two-sided paired t test. Linear regression analyses between BAT and body composition parameters were performed.


There were 62 patients (54 female, eight male) who had active cancer on PET/CT and 80 patients (67 female, 13 male) without active cancer. Groups were similar in age and BMI (p ≥ 0.4), abdominal fat and muscle CSA, fasting glucose, and outside temperature at time of scan (p ≥ 0.2). Patients who had active cancer on PET/CT had higher BAT volume compared to patients without active cancer (p = 0.009). In patients without active cancer, BAT was positively associated with BMI and abdominal fat depots (r = 0.46 to r = 0.59, p < 0.0001) while there were no such associations in patients with active cancer (p ≥ 0.1). No associations between BAT and age or muscle CSA were found (p ≥ 0.1).


BAT activity is greater in patients with active cancer compared to age-, sex-, and BMI-matched BAT-positive patients without active cancer, suggesting a possible role of BAT in cancer activity.


FDG-PET/CT Brown adipose tissue (BAT) Body composition Cancer activity 



This study was supported by NIH grants K24 DK-109940 and P30DK040561.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was waived for this retrospective study.

Supplementary material

256_2018_3046_Fig3_ESM.png (525 kb)
Supplementary Figure 1

Quantification of brown adipose tissue in regions of interest (green outline) in images obtained with positron-emission tomography (PET) (A) and CT (B). (PNG 524 kb)

256_2018_3046_MOESM1_ESM.tif (8.1 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 8260 kb)
256_2018_3046_Fig4_ESM.png (620 kb)
Supplementary Figure 2

Quantification of abdominal total adipose tissue (A), visceral adipose tissue (B), subcutaneous adipose tissue (C), and paraspinal muscle (D) on axial non-contrast CT using semiautomated methods. (PNG 620 kb)

256_2018_3046_Fig5_ESM.png (1.3 mb)
Supplementary Figure 2

Quantification of abdominal total adipose tissue (A), visceral adipose tissue (B), subcutaneous adipose tissue (C), and paraspinal muscle (D) on axial non-contrast CT using semiautomated methods. (PNG 620 kb)

256_2018_3046_Fig6_ESM.png (914 kb)
Supplementary Figure 2

Quantification of abdominal total adipose tissue (A), visceral adipose tissue (B), subcutaneous adipose tissue (C), and paraspinal muscle (D) on axial non-contrast CT using semiautomated methods. (PNG 620 kb)

256_2018_3046_Fig7_ESM.png (1.1 mb)
Supplementary Figure 2

Quantification of abdominal total adipose tissue (A), visceral adipose tissue (B), subcutaneous adipose tissue (C), and paraspinal muscle (D) on axial non-contrast CT using semiautomated methods. (PNG 620 kb)

256_2018_3046_MOESM2_ESM.tif (4.8 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 4870 kb)
256_2018_3046_MOESM3_ESM.tif (13.9 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 14244 kb)
256_2018_3046_MOESM4_ESM.tif (9 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 9262 kb)
256_2018_3046_MOESM5_ESM.tif (10 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 10222 kb)


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Copyright information

© ISS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stijn A. Bos
    • 1
    • 2
  • Corey M. Gill
    • 1
    • 3
  • Edgar L. Martinez-Salazar
    • 1
  • Martin Torriani
    • 1
  • Miriam A. Bredella
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Musculoskeletal Imaging and Intervention, Department of RadiologyMassachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Academic Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of MedicineIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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