PET Imaging of Tumor Perfusion: A Potential Cancer Biomarker?

Geoffrey B. Johnson, Hendrik J. Harms, Derek R. Johnson, Mark S. Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Perfusion, as measured by imaging, is considered a standard of care biomarker for the evaluation of many tumors. Measurements of tumor perfusion may be used in a number of ways, including improving the visual detection of lesions, differentiating malignant from benign findings, assessing aggressiveness of tumors, identifying ischemia and by extension hypoxia within tumors, and assessing treatment response. While most clinical perfusion imaging is currently performed with CT or MR, a number of methods for PET imaging of tumor perfusion have been described. The inert PET radiotracer 15O-water PET represents the recognized gold standard for absolute quantification of tissue perfusion in both normal tissue and a variety of pathological conditions including cancer. Other cancer PET perfusion imaging strategies include the use of radiotracers with high first-pass uptake, analogous to those used in cardiac perfusion PET. This strategy produces more visually pleasing high-contrast images that provide relative rather than absolute perfusion quantification. Lastly, multiple timepoint imaging of PET tracers such as 18F-FDG, are not specifically optimized for perfusion, but have advantages related to availability, convenience, and reimbursement. Multiple obstacles have thus far blocked the routine use of PET imaging for tumor perfusion, including tracer production and distribution, image processing, patient body coverage, clinical validation, regulatory approval and reimbursement, and finally feasible clinical workflows. Fortunately, these obstacles are being overcome, especially within larger imaging centers, opening the door for PET imaging of tumor perfusion to become standard clinical practice. In the foreseeable future, it is possible that whole-body PET perfusion imaging with 15O-water will be able to be performed in a single imaging session concurrent with standard PET imaging techniques such as 18F-FDG-PET. This approach could establish an efficient clinical workflow. The resultant ability to measure absolute tumor blood flow in combination with glycolysis will provide important complementary information to inform prognosis and clinical decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalSeminars in Nuclear Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'PET Imaging of Tumor Perfusion: A Potential Cancer Biomarker?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this