DOI: 10.1007/s00259-017-3733-1Pages: 1845-1852

Characterisation of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours in neurofibromatosis-1 using heterogeneity analysis of 18F-FDG PET

1. King’s College London, Cancer Imaging Department, Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering

2. King’s College London, Guy’s, Kings and St Thomas’ Medical School

3. Guys & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, National Neurofibromatosis Service, Department of Neurology

Correspondence to:
Gary J. R. Cook
Tel: +44 (0)207 188 8379




Measurement of heterogeneity in 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) images is reported to improve tumour phenotyping and response assessment in a number of cancers. We aimed to determine whether measurements of 18F-FDG heterogeneity could improve differentiation of benign symptomatic neurofibromas from malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNSTs).


18F-FDG PET data from a cohort of 54 patients (24 female, 30 male, mean age 35.1 years) with neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1), and clinically suspected malignant transformation of neurofibromas into MPNSTs, were included. Scans were performed to a standard clinical protocol at 1.5 and 4 h post-injection. Six first-order [including three standardised uptake value (SUV) parameters], four second-order (derived from grey-level co-occurrence matrices) and four high-order (derived from neighbourhood grey-tone difference matrices) statistical features were calculated from tumour volumes of interest. Each patient had histological verification or at least 5 years clinical follow-up as the reference standard with regards to the characterisation of tumours as benign (n = 30) or malignant (n = 24).


There was a significant difference between benign and malignant tumours for all six first-order parameters (at 1.5 and 4 h; p < 0.0001), for second-order entropy (only at 4 h) and for all high-order features (at 1.5 h and 4 h, except contrast at 4 h; p < 0.0001–0.047). Similarly, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curves was high (0.669–0.997, p < 0.05) for the same features as well as 1.5-h second-order entropy. No first-, second- or high-order feature performed better than maximum SUV (SUVmax) at differentiating benign from malignant tumours.


18F-FDG uptake in MPNSTs is higher than benign symptomatic neurofibromas, as defined by SUV parameters, and more heterogeneous, as defined by first- and high-order heterogeneity parameters. However, heterogeneity analysis does not improve on SUVmax discriminative performance.

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  • Accepted: May 12, 2017
  • Online: Jun 7, 2017

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