DOI: 10.1007/s00259-017-3885-zPages: 735-750

Value of 18F–FDG PET/CT for predicting EGFR mutations and positive ALK expression in patients with non-small cell lung cancer: a retrospective analysis of 849 Chinese patients

1. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases of the Ministry of health, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College

2. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College

3. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hubei Key Laboratory of Molecular Imaging, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College

4. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Biobank, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College

Correspondence to:
Yang Jin
Tel: 86-13554361146




Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations and the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangement are the two most common druggable targets in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, genetic testing is sometimes unavailable. Previous studies regarding the predictive role of 18F–FDG PET/CT for EGFR mutations in NSCLC patients are conflicting. We investigated whether or not 18F–FDG PET could be a valuable noninvasive method to predict EGFR mutations and ALK positivity in NSCLC using the largest patient cohort to date.


We retrospectively reviewed and included 849 NSCLC patients who were tested for EGFR mutations or ALK status and subjected to 18F–FDG PET/CT prior to treatment. The differences in several clinical characteristics and three parameters based on 18F–FDG PET/CT, including the maximal standard uptake value (SUVmax) of the primary tumor (pSUVmax), lymph node (nSUVmax) and distant metastasis (mSUVmax), between the different subgroups were analyzed. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to identify predictors of EGFR mutations and ALK positivity.


EGFR mutations were identified in 371 patients (45.9%). EGFR mutations were found more frequently in females, non-smokers, adenocarcinomas and stage I disease. Low pSUVmax, nSUVmax and mSUVmax were significantly associated with EGFR mutations. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that pSUVmax < 7.0, female sex, non-smoker status and adenocarcinoma were predictors of EGFR mutations. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve yielded area under the curve (AUC) values of 0.557 and 0.697 for low pSUVmax alone and the combination of the four factors, respectively. ALK-positive patients tended to have a high nSUVmax. Younger age and distant metastasis were the only two independent predictors of ALK positivity.


We demonstrated that low pSUVmax is associated with mutant EGFR status and could be integrated with other clinical factors to enhance the discriminability on the EGFR mutation status in some NSCLC patients whose EGFR testing is unavailable.

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  • Accepted: Nov 8, 2017
  • Online: Nov 21, 2017

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