FDG PET/CT for tumoral and systemic immune response monitoring of advanced melanoma during first-line combination ipilimumab and nivolumab treatment

Amir Iravani, Medhat M. Osman, Alison M. Weppler, Roslyn Wallace, Anna Galligan, Arian Lasocki, Morgan O. Hunter, Tim Akhurst, Michael S. Hofman, Peter K.H. Lau, Damien Kee, George Au-Yeung, Shahneen Sandhu, Rodney J. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Purpose: We aimed to investigate the role of FDG-PET/CT in monitoring of response and immune-related adverse events (irAEs) following first-line combination-immune checkpoint inhibitor (combination-ICI) therapy for advanced melanoma. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed outcomes in patients who had (1) first-line nivolumab plus ipilimumab; (2) pre- and post-treatment FDG-PET/CT scans (pre-FDG-PET/CT and post-FDG-PET/CT) within 2 and 4 months of starting ICI, respectively; and (3) at least one lesion assessable by PET response criteria in solid tumors (PERCIST). Extracranial response was monitored by 3 monthly FDG-PET/CT. Whole-body metabolic tumor volume (wbMTV) was measured pre- and post-treatment and correlated with outcome. FDG-PET/CT manifestations of irAE were defined as new increased non-tumoral uptake on post-FDG-PET/CT and were correlated with clinical presentation. Results: Thirty-one consecutive patients, median age 60 years (range, 30–78), were identified from 2016 to 2018. The median number of combination-ICI cycles to the first post-FDG-PET/CT response assessment was 3 (interquartile range (IQR), 2–4). The best-overall responses were complete metabolic response (CMR) in 25 (80%), partial metabolic response (PMR) in 3 (10%), and progressive metabolic disease (PMD) in 3 (10%) patients. Patients with PMD had significantly higher pre-treatment wbMTV (p = 0.009). At a median follow-up of 21.5 months, 26 (84%) patients were alive with median progression-free and overall survival not reached. Secondary progression occurred in 9/31 (29%) patients at a median of 8.2 months (IQR, 6.9–15.5), of those majority (78%) was detected by FDG-PET/CT. Of 36 findings on post-FDG-PET/CT suggestive of irAE, 29 (80%) had clinical confirmation. In 3 (7%), the FDG-PET/CT findings preceded clinical presentation. The most common FDG-PET/CT detectable irAEs were endocrinopathies (36%) and enterocolitis (35%). Conclusion: FDG-PET/CT response evaluation predicts the long-term outcome of patients treated with first-line combination-ICIs. Long-term treatment response monitoring for detection of extracranial secondary progression is feasible by FDG-PET/CT. Beyond response assessment, FDG-PET/CT frequently detects clinically relevant irAEs, which may involve multiple systems contemporaneously or at various time-points and may precede clinical diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2776-2786
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Combination immunotherapy
  • Immune-related adverse event
  • Ipilimumab and nivolumab
  • Melanoma
  • Response assessment


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