BACKGROUND: Total metabolic active tumour volume (TMATV) and total tumour burden (TTB) are increasingly studied as prognostic and predictive factors in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. In this study, we investigated the repeatability of TMATV and TTB as function of uptake interval, positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) image reconstruction settings, and lesion delineation method. We used six lesion delineation methods, four direct PET image-derived delineations and two based on a majority vote approach, i.e. intersection between two or more delineations (MV2) and between three or more delineations (MV3). To evaluate the accuracy of those methods, they were compared with a reference delineation obtained from the consensus of the segmentations performed by three experienced observers. Ten NSCLC patients underwent two baseline whole-body [18F]2-Fluoro-2-deoxy-2-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) PET/CT studies on separate days, within 3 days. Two scans were obtained on each day at 60 and 90 min post-injection to assess the influence of tracer uptake interval. PET/CT images were reconstructed following the European Association of Nuclear Medicine Research Ltd. (EARL) compliant settings and with point-spread-function (PSF) modelling. Repeatability between the measurements of each day was determined and the influence of uptake interval, reconstruction settings, and lesion delineation method was assessed using the generalized estimating equations model.
RESULTS: Based on the Jaccard index with the reference delineation, the MV2 lesion delineation method was the most successful method for automated lesion segmentation. The best overall repeatability (lowest repeatability coefficient, RC) was found for TTB from 90 min of tracer uptake scans reconstructed with EARL compliant settings and delineated with 41% of lesion's maximum SUV method (RC = 11%). In most cases, TMATV and TTB repeatability were not significantly affected by changes in tracer uptake time or reconstruction settings. However, some lesion delineation methods had significantly different repeatability when applied to the same images.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that under some circumstances TMATV and TTB repeatability are significantly affected by the lesion delineation method used. Performing the delineation with a majority vote approach improves reliability and does not hamper repeatability, regardless of acquisition and reconstruction settings. It is therefore concluded that by using a majority vote based tumour segmentation approach, TMATV and TTB in NSCLC patients can be measured with high reliability and precision.
- Total tumour burden
- Metabolic active tumour voluma
- FDG PET/CT
- Tumour delineation
- Tracer uptake interval
- Majority vote