Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Medical Physics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Lei Dong, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mary Martel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Tucker, Ph.D

Committee Member

Osama Mawlawi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Schwartz, M.D.


Quantitative imaging with 18F-FDG PET/CT has the potential to provide an in vivo assessment of response to radiotherapy (RT). However, comparing tissue tracer uptake in longitudinal studies is often confounded by variations in patient setup and potential treatment induced gross anatomic changes. These variations make true response monitoring for the same anatomic volume a challenge, not only for tumors, but also for normal organs-at-risk (OAR). The central hypothesis of this study is that more accurate image registration will lead to improved quantitation of tissue response to RT with 18F-FDG PET/CT. Employing an in-house developed “demons” based deformable image registration algorithm, pre-RT tumor and parotid gland volumes can be more accurately mapped to serial functional images. To test the hypothesis, specific aim 1 was designed to analyze whether deformably mapping tumor volumes rather than aligning to bony structures leads to superior tumor response assessment. We found that deformable mapping of the most metabolically avid regions improved response prediction (P<0.05). The positive predictive power for residual disease was 63% compared to 50% for contrast enhanced post-RT CT. Specific aim 2 was designed to use parotid gland standardized uptake value (SUV) as an objective imaging biomarker for salivary toxicity. We found that relative change in parotid gland SUV correlated strongly with salivary toxicity as defined by the RTOG/EORTC late effects analytic scale (Spearman’s ρ = -0.96, P<0.01). Finally, the goal of specific aim 3 was to create a phenomenological dose-SUV response model for the human parotid glands. Utilizing only baseline metabolic function and the planned dose distribution, predicting parotid SUV change or salivary toxicity, based upon specific aim 2, became possible. We found that the predicted and observed parotid SUV relative changes were significantly correlated (Spearman’s ρ = 0.94, P<0.01). The application of deformable image registration to quantitative treatment response monitoring with 18F-FDG PET/CT could have a profound impact on patient management. Accurate and early identification of residual disease may allow for more timely intervention, while the ability to quantify and predict toxicity of normal OAR might permit individualized refinement of radiation treatment plan designs.


Quantitative treatment response monitoring, Deformable image registration, PET/CT, Salivary toxicity, Dose response, Phenomenological modeling