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Med Phys. 2014 Apr;41(4):041911. doi: 10.1118/1.4868462.

18F-FLT uptake kinetics in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: a PET imaging study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus Research Building, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7DQ, United Kingdom.
  • 2Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine, King's College London, St Thomas Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, United Kingdom.



To analyze the kinetics of 3(')-deoxy-3(')-[F-18]-fluorothymidine (18F-FLT) uptake by head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and involved nodes imaged using positron emission tomography (PET).


Two- and three-tissue compartment models were fitted to 12 tumor time-activity-curves (TACs) obtained for 6 structures (tumors or involved nodes) imaged in ten dynamic PET studies of 1 h duration, carried out for five patients. The ability of the models to describe the data was assessed using a runs test, the Akaike information criterion (AIC) and leave-one-out cross-validation. To generate parametric maps the models were also fitted to TACs of individual voxels. Correlations between maps of different parameters were characterized using Pearson'sr coefficient; in particular the phosphorylation rate-constants k3-2tiss and k5 of the two- and three-tissue models were studied alongside the flux parameters KFLT- 2tiss and KFLT of these models, and standardized uptake values (SUV). A methodology based on expectation-maximization clustering and the Bayesian information criterion ("EM-BIC clustering") was used to distil the information from noisy parametric images.


Fits of two-tissue models 2C3K and 2C4K and three-tissue models 3C5K and 3C6K comprising three, four, five, and six rate-constants, respectively, pass the runs test for 4, 8, 10, and 11 of 12 tumor TACs. The three-tissue models have lower AIC and cross-validation scores for nine of the 12 tumors. Overall the 3C6K model has the lowest AIC and cross-validation scores and its fitted parameter values are of the same orders of magnitude as literature estimates. Maps of KFLT and KFLT- 2tiss are strongly correlated (r = 0.85) and also correlate closely with SUV maps (r = 0.72 for KFLT- 2tiss, 0.64 for KFLT). Phosphorylation rate-constant maps are moderately correlated with flux maps (r = 0.48 for k3-2tiss vs KFLT- 2tiss and r = 0.68 for k5 vs KFLT); however, neither phosphorylation rate-constant correlates significantly with SUV. EM-BIC clustering reduces the parametric maps to a small number of levels--on average 5.8, 3.5, 3.4, and 1.4 for KFLT- 2tiss, KFLT, k3-2tiss, and k5. This large simplification is potentially useful for radiotherapy dose-painting, but demonstrates the high noise in some maps. Statistical simulations show that voxel level noise degrades TACs generated from the 3C6K model sufficiently that the average AIC score, parameter bias, and total uncertainty of 2C4K model fits are similar to those of 3C6K fits, whereas at the whole tumor level the scores are lower for 3C6K fits.


For the patients studied here, whole tumor FLT uptake time-courses are represented better overall by a three-tissue than by a two-tissue model. EM-BIC clustering simplifies noisy parametric maps, providing the best description of the underlying information they contain and is potentially useful for radiotherapy dose-painting. However, the clustering highlights the large degree of noise present in maps of the phosphorylation rate-constantsk5 and k3-2tiss, which are conceptually tightly linked to cellular proliferation. Methods must be found to make these maps more robust-either by constraining other model parameters or modifying dynamic imaging protocols.

© 2014 American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

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