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Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2005 May;32(5):589-92. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Role of 18F-FDG PET-CT imaging for the detection of an unknown primary tumour: preliminary results in 21 patients.

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Nuclear Medicine Service-PET Unit, S. Orsola-Malpighi Bologna Hospital, Bologna, Italy.



Metastatic cancer of unknown primary origin is a syndrome characterised by a poor prognosis, with a typical survival rate from diagnosis of no longer than 1 year. Only 20-27% of primary tumours are identified by conventional radiological imaging. By contrast, it has been reported that 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) allows the identification of 24-40% of otherwise unrecognised primary tumours. To our knowledge, the studies on this topic have been conducted using 18F-FDG PET imaging alone. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential additional diagnostic role of fused 18F-FDG PET-CT imaging for the detection of metastatic occult primary tumours.


The study population consisted of 21 consecutive patients with biopsy-proven metastatic disease and negative conventional diagnostic procedures. Each patient underwent a PET scan, carried out according to a standard procedure (6 h of fasting, i.v. injection of 370 MBq of 18F-FDG and image acquisition with a dedicated PET-CT scanner for 4 min per bed position).


18F-FDG PET-CT detected the occult primary tumour in 12 patients (57% of cases), providing a detection rate higher than that reported with any other imaging modality, including conventional 18F-FDG PET.


The favourable results of this study need to be confirmed in larger patient populations with long-term follow-up.

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