FDG-PET in thyroid cancer

Flavio Crippa, Alessandra Alessi, Alberto Gerali, Emilio Bombardieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The most widely used diagnostic nuclear medicine technique in well-differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is radioiodine scintigraphy, either diagnostic or post-therapeutic, together with serum thyroglobulin (Tg) measurement; this combination is usually able to determine the presence or absence of cancer. FDG-PET has shown less sensitivity in DTC that retains the ability to trap 131I. Several alternative procedures with single photon emitting radiopharmaceuticals have been evaluated including whole body scan with 201TI, 99mTc-sestamibi or tetrofosmin scan, with different sensitivity and specificity. The main advantage of these tests is that their results are not influenced by the levels of TSH, therefore they do not require a hypothyroid state in the patient. Recently positron emission tomography (PET) with FDG has been demonstrated to be highly useful in thyroid cancer patients with a negative 131I whole body scan but measurable Tg. According to reports in the literature FDG-PET in the follow-up of operated patients has a sensitivity ranging from 70% to 90% in identifying the source of Tg. The demonstration of lesions can lead to a change in treatment including surgery or external radiation instead of radioiodine treatment, In Europe, medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is currently visualized by 99mTc pentavalent dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) and 99mTc-sestamibi or tetrofosmin. Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) radiolabeled with 123I or 131I is another reliable radiopharmaceutical for medullary tumors. 111In-pentetreotide scan is positive in a high percentage of patients because MTC expresses somatostatin receptors, FDG-PET has an interesting role to play in calcitonin-positive patients, where PET has been shown to correctly identify lesions in cervical and mediastinal lymph nodes as well as at distant sites. Furthermore, calcitonin-guided PET has been found to be superior to CT and MRI in many patients. Recent reports indicated that 18F-DOPA scan in MTC seems to be more accurate than FDG-PET.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-543
Number of pages4
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003


  • Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC)
  • Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC)
  • Thyroid cancer scintigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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