Post-radiotherapy PET/CT for predicting treatment outcomes in head and neck cancer after postoperative radiotherapy

Yan Li, Musaddiq J. Awan, Tangel Chang, Pierre Lavertu, Chad Zender, Rod Rezaee, Nicole Fowler, Jay Wasman, Norbert E. Avril, Nianyong Chen, Mitchell Machtay, Min Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to retrospectively review the role of post-treatment (post-tx) FDG-PET/CT scans in patients receiving postoperative intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) for head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Materials and methods: Eighty-two patients with HNSCC treated with surgery and postoperative IMRT with or without chemotherapy from October 15, 2008 to December 31, 2014 that had post-tx PET/CT within 6 months of completing IMRT were included. PET/CT was considered positive based on multi-disciplinary review integrating clinical information. Survival analysis was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method. Categorical and continuous predictors of positive post-tx PET/CT were evaluated using Fisher’s exact test and logistic regression, respectively. Predictors for survival outcomes were evaluated with log-rank testing. A p ≤ 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: Median follow-up was 3.88 years. For all patients, 3-year overall survival (OS) and recurrence-free survival (RFS) were 71.8% and 61.3%, respectively. Patients with positive post-tx PET/CT had worse OS compared to those with negative post-tx PET/CT (log rank p < 0.001). For patients with positive post-tx PET/CT, 3-year OS was 11.2% compared to 89.9% for patients with negative post-tx PET/CT. The positive predictive value (PPV) of PET/CT was 100% for local recurrence (LR), regional recurrence (RR) and distant metastasis (DM). The negative predictive values (NPV) for LR, RR and DM were 89.0%, 89.2%, and 85.9%, respectively. Perineural invasion (p = 0.009), p16 status (p = 0.009), non-oropharyngeal primary site (p = 0.002), and the use of chemotherapy (p = 0.01) were independent predictors of positive PET/CT. Conclusions: Post-tx PET/CT after postoperative radiation is prognostic for survival outcomes. The PPV of post-tx PET for recurrence was excellent, allowing for early detection of recurrent disease. Post-tx PET/CT should be considered after postoperative radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)794-800
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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