Comparison of CT and positron emission tomography/CT coregistered images in planning radical radiotherapy in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer

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Imaging with F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) significantly improves lung cancer staging, especially when PET and CT information are combined. We describe a method for obtaining CT and PET images at separate acquisitions, which allows coregistration and incorporation of PET information into the radiotherapy (RT) planning process for non-small-cell lung cancer. The influence of PET information on RT planning was analysed for 10 consecutive patients. Computed tomography and PET images were acquired with the patient in an immobilization device, in the treatment position. Using specially written software, PET and CT data were coregistered using fiducial markers and imported into our RT planning system (Cadplan version 6). Treatment plans were prepared with and without access to PET/CT coregistered images and then compared. PET influenced the treatment plan in all cases. In three cases, geographic misses (gross tumour outside planning target volume) would have occurred had PET not been used. In a further three cases, better planning target volume marginal coverage was achieved with PET. In four patients, three with atelectasis, there were significant reductions in V20 (percentage of the total lung volume receiving 20 Gy or more). Use of coregistered PET/CT images significantly altered treatment plans in a majority of cases. This method could be used in routine practice at centres without access to a combined PET/CT scanner.

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