DOI: 10.1186/s13550-018-0423-3Pages: 1-10

18F-FDG and 68Ga-somatostatin analogs PET/CT in patients with Merkel cell carcinoma: a comparison study

1. Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS, Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Radiation Oncology and Hematology, Nuclear Medicine Unit

2. Humanitas University, Department of Biomedical Sciences

3. Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, Division of Medical Oncology

4. Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova—IRCCS Reggio Emilia, Nuclear Medicine Unit

5. Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS, Roma—Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Radiation Oncology and Hematology, Institute of Nuclear Medicine

Correspondence to:
Vittoria Rufini
Tel: +39.06.30154978




Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin tumor. Currently, 18F-fluoro-deoxy-glucose (18F-FDG) PET/CT is the functional imaging modality of choice. Few data are available on the use of 68Ga-somatostatin analogs. The aim of our study was to evaluate and compare the diagnostic performance of 18F-FDG and 68Ga-somatostatin analog PET/CT in MCC patients.


Fifteen patients (12 males, 3 females; median age 73 years; range 41–81 years) with histologically proven MCC (4 with unknown primary lesion) who underwent both 18F-FDG and 68Ga-somatostatin analog PET/CT for staging, re-staging, or treatment response assessment were retrospectively evaluated. Results of both studies were qualitatively analyzed and compared on a patient- and lesion-based analysis, using histology or clinical/radiological follow-up as reference standard for final diagnosis. According to final diagnosis, 8/15 patients had at least one MCC lesion and 7/15 had no evidence of disease. On a patient-based analysis, 18F-FDG and 68Ga-somatostatin analogs correctly classified as positive 8/8 (100% sensitivity) patients and as negative 6/7 (85.7% specificity) and 5/7 (71.4% specificity) patients, respectively, with no significant difference. On a lesion-based analysis, 18F-FDG detected 67/75 lesions (89%) and 68Ga-somatostatin analogs 69/75 (92%), with no significant difference. In four patients with unknown primary MCC, both tracers failed to identify the primary MCC site.


Our preliminary data suggest that 18F-FDG and 68Ga-somatostatin analog PET/CT provide good and equivalent diagnostic performance, adding interesting insights into the complex MCC biology. However, these results do not suggest that 18F-FDG PET/CT should be replaced by 68Ga-somatostatin receptor imaging, which should be performed in addition, according to clinical indication, to the perspective of “personalized medicine.”

This article is freely available, click here to access the full text/PDF

  • Accepted: Jul 6, 2018
  • Online: Jul 21, 2018

Article Tools