BACKGROUND: Metastatic melanoma patients can have durable responses to systemic therapy and even long-term survival. However, a large subgroup of patients does not benefit. Tumour metabolic alterations may well be involved in the efficacy of both targeted and immunotherapy. Knowledge on in vivo tumour glucose uptake and its heterogeneity in metastatic melanoma may aid in upfront patient selection for novel (concomitant) metabolically targeted therapies. The aim of this retrospective study was to provide insight into quantitative 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT) parameters and corresponding intra- and inter-patient heterogeneity in tumour 18F-FDG uptake among metastatic melanoma patients. Consecutive, newly diagnosed stage IV melanoma patients with a baseline 18F-FDG PET/CT scan performed between May 2014 and December 2015 and scheduled to start first-line systemic treatment were included. Volume of interests (VOIs) of all visible tumour lesions were delineated using a gradient-based contour method, and standardized uptake values (SUVs), metabolically active tumour volume (MATV) and total lesion glycolysis (TLG) were determined on a per-lesion and per-patient basis. Differences in quantitative PET parameters were explored between patient categories stratified by BRAFV600 and RAS mutational status, baseline serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels and tumour programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression.
RESULTS: In 64 patients, 1143 lesions ≥ 1 ml were delineated. Median number of lesions ≥ 1 ml was 6 (range 0-168), median maximum SUVpeak 9.5 (range 0-58), median total MATV 29 ml (range 0-2212) and median total TLG 209 (range 0-16,740). Per-patient analysis revealed considerable intra- and inter-patient heterogeneity. Maximum SUVs, MATV, number of lesions and TLG per patient did not differ when stratifying between BRAFV600 or RAS mutational status or PD-L1 expression status, but were higher in the patient group with elevated LDH levels (> 250 U/l) compared to the group with normal LDH levels (P < 0.001). A subset of patients with normal LDH levels also showed above median tumour 18F-FDG uptake.
CONCLUSIONS: Baseline tumour 18F-FDG uptake in stage IV melanoma is heterogeneous, independent of mutational status and cannot be fully explained by LDH levels. Further investigation of the prognostic and predictive value of quantitative 18F-FDG PET parameters is of interest.