A study looking at a type of PET-CT scan to predict how well treatment works for head and neck cancer (FLAIRE)

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Mouth (oral) cancer





This study was done to see if a scan called an FLT PET-CT scan could predict how well radiotherapy and chemotherapy for head and neck cancer would work.

More about this trial

Doctors often treat head and neck cancer with radiotherapy, sometimes with chemotherapy or with targeted cancer drugs such as cetuximab. When you have chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time it is called chemoradiation.

The people taking part in this study had FLT PET-CT scans about:

  • 2 weeks before treatment
  • 2 weeks after starting treatment
  • 6 weeks after finishing treatment 

They also had standard CT scans or PET-CT scans before treatment, and about 12 weeks after finishing treatment. 

They had a small injection of a radioactive substance called FLT before each FLT PET-CT scan. Cells in the body absorb FLT, which helps them show up on the scan. The more active the cell, the more FLT it absorbs. Cancer cells are very active, so they show up more clearly.

The aims of this pilot study were to see:

  • whether it is possible to do the extra scans
  • if having FLT PET-CT scans during treatment can help predict how well treatment will work

Summary of results

This study recruited 17 people with head and neck cancer, mainly with cancer of the tongue or tonsil.

The research team compared the results of the FLT PET-CT scans with the standard CT or PET-CT scans. They wanted to see if they could use FLT PET-CT scan results during treatment to predict how well treatment was going to work.

When they looked at the amount of FLT that was absorbed on the scans (the FLT uptake), they found that:

  • everyone taking part had a raised FLT uptake before treatment in either their original cancer or lymph nodes
  • 14 out of 17 people (82%) had a raised FLT uptake before treatment in both their original cancer and lymph nodes
  • generally, the FLT uptake was higher for people who had more advanced cancer
  • it was lower in the second scan than the first
  • the actual level of FLT uptake may be more important than the change between one scan and the next

The cancer spread to another part of the body in only 2 of the 17 people taking part. The research team used the results of their scans to find a level of FLT uptake that might predict whether the cancer will spread. But it was difficult to draw any firm conclusions about this because of the small number of people.

They concluded that it is possible to do these extra scans. And that a high level of FLT uptake may mean that treatment is less likely to work. 

We have based this summary on information from the research team.  As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) or published in a medical journal yet. The figures we quote above were provided by the research team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Charles Kelly

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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