Malignant gliomas and metastatic tumors are the most common forms of brain tumors. From a clinical perspective, neuroimaging plays a significant role, in diagnosis, treatment planning, and follow-up. To date MRI is considered the current clinical gold standard for imaging, however, despite providing superior structural detail it features poor specificity in identifying viable tumors in brain treated with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. In the last years functional neuroimaging has become largely widespread thanks to the use of molecular tracers employed in cellular metabolism which has significantly improved the management of patients with brain tumors, especially in the post-treatment phase.
Despite the considerable progress of molecular imaging in oncology its use in the diagnosis of brain tumors is still limited by a few wellknown technical problems. Because 18F-FDG, the most common radiotracer used in oncology, is avidly accumulated by normal cortex, the low tumor/background signal ratio makes it difficult to distinguish the tumor from normal surrounding tissues. By contrast, radiotracers with higher specificity for the tumor are labeled with a short half-life isotopes which restricts their use to those centers equipped with a cyclotron and radiopharmacy facility.
11C-Choline has been reported as a suitable tracer for neuroimaging application. The recent availability of choline labeled with a long half-life radioisotope as 18F increases the possibility of studying this tracer's potential role in the staging of brain tumors.
The present review focuses on the possible clinical applications of PET/CT with choline tracers in malignant brain tumors and brain metastases, with a special focus on malignant gliomas.