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Defining primary anal cancer tumour volume on FDG–PET – an initial assessment of semi–automated methods

International Journal of Radiology & Radiation Therapy
Drew Smith MRadTher, BSc (Hons),1,2 Daryl Lim Joon FRANZCR,1 Michal Schneider PhD,2 Eddie Lau FRANZCR, FAANMS,3,4 Kellie Knight HScD, MHlthSc, BAppSc,2 Farshad Foroudi MPA DMedSc FRANZCR,1,5 Vincent Khoo FRACR, FRCR, MD1,6,7

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Purpose Clinician inexperience, intra–observer and inter–observer variations in tumour definition may affect staging, radiotherapy target definition, and treatment outcomes, particularly in rare cancers. The purpose of this study was to assess the correlation between semi–automated methods of primary anal cancer (AC) definition and our current clinical standard of manual clinician definition using 18F–FDG–PET imaging and to provide recommendations for clinical use. Methods All patients referred for chemoradiotherapy for AC between 2012 and 2016 were prospectively enrolled, with all 18F–FDG–PET imaging acquired within one year of chemoradiotherapy collected. Three methods of primary AC definition were performed on all PET datasets. Manual definition by an experienced radiologist was considered the clinical standard for comparison of volume and coincidence (Dice coefficient) in our study. Semi–automated techniques assessed included a gradient–based SUV (SUV–gradient) method and a SUV threshold method with a range of thresholds relative to SUVmax (40 (T40), 50 (T50) and 60% (T60)). Results Ten patients were enrolled with 33 PET study sets available for analysis. While all methods created contours on pre– and post–treatment scans, manual definition of PET–avid disease was only necessary on 11 of the 33 study sets. SUV–gradient and T40 defined contours were not statistically different in volume to the clinical standard (p = 0.83 & 0.72 respectively). The observed Dice coefficient relative to the manual clinician contours were 0.75 and 0.73 for the SUV–gradient and T40 methods respectively. Conclusions It is possible to define gross AC using SUV–based methods, with the SUV–gradient–based method followed by the T40 method most closely correlating with our current clinical standard. The SUV–gradient–based method studied is housed within a proprietary clinical system. A semi–automated approach that uses a vendor neutral T40 method and the clinician’s knowledge and skill appears optimal in defining AC. With this approach AC may be defined reliably to enhance efficiencies in radiotherapy and nuclear medicine processes, and to support clinicians in identifying and defining this rare disease. Trial registration ANZCTR, ACTRN12620000066987. Registered 28 January 2020–Retrospectively registered, https://www.anzctr.org.au/ACTRN12620000066987.aspx


anal cancer, PET, automated, radiotherapy, SUV, target volume