Role of 18F FDG PET/CT as a novel non-invasive biomarker of inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
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A characteristic feature of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an abnormal inflammatory response in the lungs to inhaled particles or gases. The ability to assess and monitor this response in the lungs of COPD patients is important for understanding the pathogenic mechanisms, but also provides a measure of the activity of the disease. Disease activity is more likely to relate to lung inflammation rather than the degree of airflow limitation as measured by the FEV1. Preliminary studies have shown the 18F fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (18F FDG-PET) signal, as a measure of lung inflammation, is quantifiable in the lungs and is increased in COPD patients compared to controls. However, the methodology requires standardisation and any further enhancement of the methodology would improve its application to assess inflammation in the lungs. I investigated various methods of assessing FDG uptake in the lungs and assessed the reproducibility of these methods, and particularly evaluated whether the data was reproducible or not in the COPD patients (smokers and ex-smokers). This data was then compared with a group of healthy controls to assess the role of dynamic 18F FDG-PET scanning as a surrogate marker of lung inflammation. My data showed a good reproducibility of all methods of assessing FDG lung uptake. However, using conventional Patlak analysis, the uptake was not statistically different between COPD and the control group. Encouraging results in favour of COPD patients were nonetheless shown using compartmental methods of assessing the FDG lung uptake, suggesting the need to correct for the effect of air and blood (tissue fraction effect) when assessing this in a highly vascular organ like the lungs. A prospective study analysis involving a bigger cohort of COPD patients would be desirable to investigate this further.