PET-based treatment response assessment typically measures the change in maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax), which is adversely affected by noise. Peak SUV (SUVpeak) has been recommended as a more robust alternative, but its associated region of interest (ROIpeak) is not uniquely defined. We investigated the impact of different ROIpeak definitions on quantification of SUVpeak and tumor response.
Seventeen patients with solid malignancies were treated with a multitargeted receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor resulting in a variety of responses. Using the cellular proliferation marker 3′-deoxy-3′-18F-fluorothymidine (18F-FLT), whole-body PET/CT scans were acquired at baseline and during treatment. 18F-FLT–avid lesions (~2/patient) were segmented on PET images, and tumor response was assessed via the relative change in SUVpeak. For each tumor, 24 different SUVpeaks were determined by changing ROIpeak shape (circles vs. spheres), size (7.5–20 mm), and location (centered on SUVmax vs. placed in highest-uptake region), encompassing different definitions from the literature. Within each tumor, variations in the 24 SUVpeaks and tumor responses were measured using coefficient of variation (CV), standardized deviation (SD), and range. For each ROIpeak definition, a population average SUVpeak and tumor response were determined over all tumors.
A substantial variation in both SUVpeak and tumor response resulted from changing the ROIpeak definition. The variable ROIpeak definition led to an intratumor SUVpeak variation ranging from 49% above to 46% below the mean (CV, 17%) and an intratumor SUVpeak response variation ranging from 49% above to 35% below the mean (SD, 9%). The variable ROIpeak definition led to a population average SUVpeak variation ranging from 24% above to 28% below the mean (CV, 14%) and a population average SUVpeak response variation ranging from only 3% above to 3% below the mean (SD, 2%). The size of ROIpeak caused more variation in intratumor response than did the location or shape of ROIpeak. Population average tumor response was independent of size, shape, and location of ROIpeak.
Quantification of individual tumor response using SUVpeak is highly sensitive to the ROIpeak definition, which can significantly affect the use of SUVpeak for assessment of treatment response. Clinical trials are necessary to compare the efficacy of SUVpeak and SUVmax for quantification of response to therapy.