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J Nucl Med. 2001 Nov;42(11):1643-52.

Imaging of blood flow and hypoxia in head and neck cancer: initial evaluation with [(15)O]H(2)O and [(18)F]fluoroerythronitroimidazole PET.

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Medicity Research Laboratory and Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry Laboratory, Turku PET Centre, Finland.


Hypoxia is a characteristic feature of malignant tumors that should be evaluated before the start of therapy. (18)F-labeled fluoroerythronitroimidazole (FETNIM) is a possible candidate for imaging tumor hypoxia with PET. Quantitative analysis of [(18)F]FETNIM uptake in vivo is necessary before proceeding to assays predicting hypoxia.


Eight patients with untreated head and neck squamous cell carcinoma were enrolled in the study. All patients underwent dynamic PET imaging with [(18)F]FETNIM, coupled with measurements of blood flow with [(15)O]H(2)O and blood volume with [(15)O]CO. The metabolically active tumor volume was determined from [(18)F]FDG PET performed on a separate day. [(18)F]FETNIM uptake in the tumor was correlated with that in neck muscles and arterial plasma and compared with the findings of other PET studies.


Blood flow in tumor was 5- to 30-fold greater than in muscle, in contrast to blood volume, which did not significantly differ in the 2 tissues. With [(18)F]FETNIM PET, muscle activity remained invariably less than plasma activity, whereas activity in whole tumors was always greater than that in muscle. In 4 instances, the maximum tumor uptake of [(18)F]FETNIM was 1.2-2.0 times higher than plasma activity in the late dynamic phase. A kinetic model developed for calculation of distribution volume of reversibly trapping tracers was successfully applied in the [(18)F]FETNIM studies. Tumor distribution volume correlated strongly with the standardized uptake value of [(18)F]FETNIM between 60 and 120 min and with blood flow but not with the standardized uptake value of [(18)F]FDG. The relationship between [(18)F]FETNIM uptake and the blood flow of the tumor was less obvious on a pixel-by-pixel level.


Uptake of [(18)F]FETNIM in head and neck cancer is highly variable and seems to be governed by blood flow at least in the early phase of tissue accumulation. Maximum tumor-to-muscle tracer uptake ratios > 180 min were in the range of 1-4, comparing favorably with those reported previously for [(18)F]fluoromisonidazole. Assessment of the distribution volume of [(18)F]FETNIM after the initial blood-flow phase is feasible for subsequent evaluation of hypoxia-specific retention.

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