Using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning may improve the treatment of patients with cancer of the esophagus, potentially resulting in lower morbidity, according to surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
James Luketich, md, assistant professor of surgery in the division of cardiothoracic surgery, codirector of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Lung Cancer Center, and director of the thoracic oncology program, is the principal investigator of this preliminary study of the role of PET scanning in the treatment of esophageal cancer. The study's findings were presented on October 26, 1996, at the meeting of the Institute for Clinical PET in Orlando, Florida.
"The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of PET in determining whether or not a patient's esophageal cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Such knowledge is important in determining the type of treatment the patient receives," Dr. Luketich said. "For instance, if we find that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and to other tissue, surgery might not be a good option. However, if it is found that cancer has not spread, then perhaps surgery and chemotherapy would be the best approach."
"We studied 21 patients and the PET scan showed 10 tumors not previously seen by X-rays or CT scans that had spread to the lymph nodes and seven other tumors that had spread to other areas of the body," Dr. Luketich said. "Overall, the effectiveness of PET in detecting cancer that has spread was 80%."
"Although this study included only a limited number of patients, PET scanning has already proven to be a valuable tool in the treatment of esophageal cancer patients," Dr. Luketich said.