FDG uptake heterogeneity in FIGO IIb cervical carcinoma does not predict pelvic lymph node involvement

Frank J. Brooks, Perry W. Grigsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Translational relevance: Many types of cancer are located and assessed via positron emission tomography (PET) using the 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) radiotracer of glucose uptake. There is rapidly increasing interest in exploiting the intra-tumor heterogeneity observed in these FDG-PET images as an indicator of disease outcome. If this image heterogeneity is of genuine prognostic value, then it either correlates to known prognostic factors, such as tumor stage, or it indicates some as yet unknown tumor quality. Therefore, the first step in demonstrating the clinical usefulness of image heterogeneity is to explore the dependence of image heterogeneity metrics upon established prognostic indicators and other clinically interesting factors. If it is shown that image heterogeneity is merely a surrogate for other important tumor properties or variations in patient populations, then the theoretical value of quantified biological heterogeneity may not yet translate into the clinic given current imaging technology.Purpose: We explore the relation between pelvic lymph node status at diagnosis and the visually evident uptake heterogeneity often observed in 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) images of cervical carcinomas.Experimental design: We retrospectively studied the FDG-PET images of 47 node negative and 38 node positive patients, each having FIGO stage IIb tumors with squamous cell histology. Imaged tumors were segmented using 40% of the maximum tumor uptake as the tumor-defining threshold and then converted into sets of three-dimensional coordinates. We employed the sphericity, extent, Shannon entropy (S) and the accrued deviation from smoothest gradients (ζ) as image heterogeneity metrics. We analyze these metrics within tumor volume strata via: the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, principal component analysis and contingency tables.Results: We found no statistically significant difference between the positive and negative lymph node groups for any one metric or plausible combinations thereof. Additionally, we observed that S is strongly dependent upon tumor volume and that ζ moderately correlates with mean FDG uptake.Conclusions: FDG uptake heterogeneity did not indicate patients with differing prognoses. Apparent heterogeneity differences between clinical groups may be an artifact arising from either the dependence of some image metrics upon other factors such as tumor volume or upon the underlying variations in the patient populations compared.

Original languageEnglish
Article number294
JournalRadiation Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 23 2013


  • Cervical cancer
  • Image texture analysis
  • Intra-tumor heterogeneity


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