Comparison of Gross Target Volumes Based on Four-Dimensional CT, Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Thoracic Esophageal Cancer

Purpose: The application value of 18 F-FDG PET-CT combined with MRI in the radiotherapy of esophageal carcinoma was discussed by comparing the differences in position, volume, and the length of GTVs delineated on the end-expiration (EE) phase of 4DCT, 18 F-FDG PET-CT, and T2 W-MRI.

Methods: A total of 26 patients with thoracic esophageal cancer sequentially performed 3DCT, 4DCT, 18 F-FDG PET-CT, and MRI simulation for thoracic localization. All images were fused with the 3DCT images by deformable registration. GTVCT and GTV50% were delineated on 3DCT and the EE phase of 4DCT images, respectively. The GTV based on PET-CT images was determined by thresholds of SUV ≥ 2.5 and designated as GTVPET2.5 . The images of T2 -weighted sequence and diffusion-weighted sequence were referred as GTVMRI and GTVDWI , respectively. The length of the abnormality seen on the 4DCT, PET-CT, and DWI was compared.

Results: GTVPET2.5 was significantly larger than GTV50% and GTVMRI (P = .000 and 0.008, respectively), and the volume of GTVMRI was similar to that of GTV50% (P = .439). Significant differences were observed between the CI of GTVMRI to GTV50% and GTVPET2.5 to GTV50% (P = .004). The CI of GTVMRI to GTVCT and GTVPET2.5 to GTVCT were statistically significant (P = .039). The CI of GTVMRI to GTVPET2.5 was significantly lower than that of GTVMRI to GTV50% , GTVMRI to GTVCT , GTVPET2.5 to GTV50% , and GTVPET2.5 to GTVCT (P = .000-0.021). Tumor length measurements by endoscopy were similar to the tumor length as measured by PET and DWI scan (P > .05), and there was no significant difference between the longitudinal length of GTVPET2.5 and GTVDWI (P = .072).

Conclusion: The volumes of GTVMRI and GTV50% were similar. However, GTVMRI has different volumes and poor spatial matching compared with GTVPET2.5 .The MRI imaging could not include entire respiration. It may be a good choice to guide target delineation and construction of esophageal carcinoma by combining 4DCT with MRI imaging. Utilization of DWI in treatment planning for esophageal cancer may provide further information to assist with target delineation. Further studies are needed to determine if this technology will translate into meaningful differences in clinical outcome.

Keywords: esophageal cancer; four-dimensional computer tomography; gross target volume; magnetic resonance imaging; positron emission tomography.