Textural features of hypoxia PET predict survival in head and neck cancer during chemoradiotherapy

  • A. SörensenEmail author
  • M. Carles
  • H. Bunea
  • L. Majerus
  • C. Stoykow
  • N. H. Nicolay
  • N. E. Wiedenmann
  • P. Vaupel
  • P. T. Meyer
  • A. L. Grosu
  • M. Mix
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Oncology – Head and Neck



The aim of this study was to investigate whether textural features of tumour hypoxia, assessed with serial [18F]fluoromisonidazole (FMISO)-PET, were able to predict clinical outcome in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC, T1-4, N+, M0) during chemoradiotherapy (CRT).


In a preliminary evaluation of a prospective trial, tumour hypoxia was evaluated in 29 patients via serial FMISO-PET before and during CRT. All patients received an initial [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET before CRT, and tumour regions were defined on this FDG-PET. The first-order metrics tumour-to-background ratio (TBRmean, TBRmax, TBRpeak), coefficient of variation, total lesion uptake and integral non-uniformity were calculated for all scans. Further, 3 second-order (textural) features from two grey-level matrices were calculated, as well as differential non-uniformity (udiff). Prognostic value was examined by median split for group separation (GS) in Kaplan-Meier estimates and correlated with overall survival (OS), quantified via log-rank tests (p ≤ 0.05) and group-relative hazard ratios (HR).


Within a median follow-up of 29.6 months (95% CI: 16.8–48.0 months), no first-order metrics predicted OS with a significant GS (all p > 0.05) on any FMISO-PET scan. Only udiff before and in week 2 during CRT (p = 0.03, HR = 10.8 and p = 0.05, HR = 5.2) and non-uniformity from grey-level run length matrix in week 2 separated prognostic groups (p = 0.05, HR = 5.3); lower values were correlated with better OS. Further, the decrease in udiff from before CRT to week 2 was correlated with better OS (p = 0.04, HR = 9.4). FDG-PET before CRT did not predict outcome in any measure.


Textural features on FMISO-PET scans before CRT, in week 2 and, to a limited degree, the change of features during CRT, were able to identify head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients with better OS, suggesting that a higher homogeneity of the degree of hypoxia in tumours could correlate with a better outcome after CRT.


Radiomics Hypoxia FMISO FDG HNSCC CRT 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nuclear Medicine, Medical Center - University of Freiburg, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Radiation Oncology, Medical Center - University of Freiburg, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.German Cancer Consortium (Deutsches Konsortium für Translationale Krebsforschung, DKTK) Partner Site FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Medical Imaging and Clinical Oncology, Nuclear Medicine Division, Faculty of Medicine and Health ScienceStellenbosch UniversityCape TownSouth Africa

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