A molecular imaging method that combines PET and CT scans with Gallium-68 (Ga-68) pinpoints hormonally active tissues in the body that could change the course of treatment for many patients with neuroendocrine cancer, said researchers at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla.
Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland examined 61 patients who had neuroendocrine cancer. Before undergoing the scanning, 32 patients were considered to be eligible for surgery and the remaining 29 were deemed to be inoperable.
The researchers assessed the patients by using a PET/CT combination, performed in conjunction with the injection of an imaging probe that combines Ga-68 with a molecular compound that mimics somatostatins, hormones that regulate the neuroendocrine system. This allowed for “hot spots” to show up on the PET scans.
Based on the results of the images, changes in treatment were made for 36 percent of the patients. Of the 32 who were originally deemed suitable for surgery, 14 were subsequently considered ineligible for surgery. Among the 29 who were at first considered to be inoperable, eight went on to have surgery to remove their tumors.
“The study shows that this particular molecular imaging technique does significantly change patient management, identifying operable and curable symptomatic patients or sparing patients from futile surgery,” said Niklaus Schaefer, MD, lead investigator. “The positive impact on our patients is also significant. This serves as a model for further use of molecular imaging to assess neuroendocrine tumors.”