PET-based estradiol challenge as a predictive biomarker of response to endocrine therapy in women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer

Farrokh Dehdashti, Joanne E. Mortimer, Kathryn Trinkaus, Michael J. Naughton, Matthew Ellis, John A. Katzenellenbogen, Michael J. Welch, Barry A. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine if response to endocrine therapy of breast cancer can be predicted by either a metabolic "flare reaction" detected by positron emission tomography (PET) with 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG), induced by an estradiol challenge, or by estrogen-receptor (ER) status, determined by PET with the estrogen analog 16α-[18F] fluoroestradiol-17β (FES). Methods: Fifty-one post-menopausal women with advanced estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer were studied. Patients underwent FES-PET and FDG-PET at baseline and repeat FDG-PET after 30 mg estradiol. Tracer uptakes was measured as the standardized uptake value (SUV). Patients were subsequently treated with either an aromatase inhibitor or fulvestrant. A prospectively defined cut-off SUV > 2 for FES was considered positive for ER expression. A cutoff of >12% increase in SUV for FDG, determined by ROC analysis, represented metabolic flare. PET results were correlated with responsiveness to endocrine therapy. Results: Seventeen patients responded and 34 patients did not respond to endocrine therapy. Four responders and one non-responder had a clinical flare reaction, while only the responders demonstrated metabolic flare. After estradiol challenge, a significantly higher mean (±SD) percent change in SUV for FDG was noted in responders (20.9 ± 24.2) compared with non-responders (-4.3 ± 11.0, P < 0.0001). On FES-PET, a higher tumor SUV was noted in responders (3.5 ± 2.5) compared with non-responders (2.1 ± 1.8, P = 0.0049). There was significantly longer overall survival in patients with metabolic flare than in those without flare regardless of type of endocrine therapy (P = 0.0062). Conclusion Baseline tumor FES uptake and metabolic flare after an estradiol challenge are both predictive of responsiveness to endocrine therapy in ER+ breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-517
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Breast cancer
  • FDG
  • FES
  • Flare reaction
  • Hormone therapy
  • Metabolic flare
  • PET
  • Positron emission tomography


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