"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”
A study looking at a type of PET-CT scan to predict how well treatment works for head and neck cancer (FLAIRE)
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 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 (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Charles Kelly
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust