Positron Emission Tomography in the Management of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Abstract: Neuroendocrine tumors (NET´s) are often characterized by overproduction of peptide hormones. In spite of pronounced clinical symptoms, the tumor lesions can be small and difficult to detect. The general aim of this thesis was to investigate, in vitro and in vivo, some of the potential monoamine pathways present in NET´s, using radiolabeled tracers for positron emission tomography (PET), with the intention to explore the value of PET-imaging in the management of NET´s. We used the 11C-labeled serotonin precursor 5-hydroxy tryptophan (HTP) as the tracer for imaging of NET´s. More than 95% of the subjects displayed a high tracer uptake on PET and tumor detection rate with PET was higher in >50% of the patients compared both to computed tomography (CT) and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS). The primary tumor was imaged by PET in 84% (16/19), compared to 47% and 42% for SRS and CT, respectively. Tumor visibility was better with PET due to a higher tumor-to-background ratio and a better spatial resolution. There was a strong correlation (r = .907) between changes in urinary-5-hydroxy indole acetic acid and changes in transport rate of 11C-5-HTP during treatment, indicating the use of PET in treatment monitoring of NET´s. Pretreatment with carbidopa decreased the urinary radioactivity concentration four-fold and significantly (p<0.001) increased the tumor tracer uptake. This greatly improved image interpretation and tumor lesion detection. A screening for expression of monoamine pathways in NET´s revealed a high in vitro binding of the monoamineoxidase-A ligand harmine to tumor sections. PET examinations with 11C-harmine could visualize tumors in all patients, including non-functioning endocrine pancreatic tumors (EPT´s). Finally, the in vitro turnover and in vivo distribution of the amino acids glutamate, glutamine and aspartate was investigated. Limited uptake in vivo indicates the lack of utility for these substances as PET-tracers for imaging and characterization of NET´s.