Background Anti-inflammatory drug development efforts for lung disease have been hampered in part by the lack of noninvasive inflammation biomarkers and the limited ability of animal models to predict efficacy in humans. We used18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) in a human model of lung inflammation to assess whether pioglitazone, a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) agonist, and zileuton, a 5-lipoxygen-ase inhibitor, reduce lung inflammation. Methods For this single center, single-blind, placebo-controlled cohort study, we enrolled healthy volunteers sequentially into the following treatment cohorts (N = 6 per cohort): pioglitazone plus placebo, zileuton plus placebo, or dual placebo prior to bronchoscopic endotoxin instillation. 18F-FDG uptake pre- and post-endotoxin was quantified as the Patlak graphical analysis-determined Ki (primary outcome measure). Secondary outcome measures included the mean standard uptake value (SUVmean), post-endotoxin bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell counts and differentials and blood adiponectin and urinary leukotriene E4 (LTE4) levels, determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, to verify treatment compliance. One- or two-way analysis of variance assessed for differences among cohorts in the outcome measures (expressed as mean ± standard deviation). Results Ten females and eight males (29±6 years of age) completed all study procedures except for one volunteer who did not complete the post-endotoxin BAL. Ki and SUVmean increased in all cohorts after endotoxin instillation (Ki increased by 0.0021±0.0019, 0.0023±0.0017, and 0.0024±0.0020 and SUVmean by 0.47±0.14, 0.55±0.15, and 0.54±0.38 in placebo, pioglitazone, and zileuton cohorts, respectively, p<0.001) with no differences among treatment cohorts (p = 0.933). Adiponectin levels increased as expected with pioglitazone treatment but not urinary LTE4 levels as expected with zileuton treatment. BAL cell counts (p = 0.442) and neutrophil percentage (p = 0.773) were similar among the treatment cohorts. Conclusions Endotoxin-induced lung inflammation in humans is not responsive to pioglitazone or zileuton, highlighting the challenge in translating anti-inflammatory drug efficacy results from murine models to humans.