Aims: The role of tumour metabolic and proliferative indices in predicting non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients' prognosis is unclear. We correlated fluorine 18 ((18) F)-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) value and Ki67 index to patients' survival, taking into account tumour heterogeneity, disease characteristics and genetic aberrations. Methods and results: A series of 383 NSCLCs was arranged into tissue microarrays and Ki67 staining was analysed by immunohistochemistry. The maximum standardized uptake (SUV(MAX) ) value detected by (18) F-FDG-PET analysis was calculated over a region of interest. Large-cell and squamous cell carcinomas had higher proliferative and metabolic activities than adenocarcinomas, and the two measures were correlated significantly. The hot-spot Ki67 value was correlated with patients' survival and the cut-off to discriminate patients in the survival risk groups was 20%. Ki67 hot-spot values were greater in anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearranged tumours. Adenocarcinomas showed the highest intratumour heterogeneity in proliferative activity and the hot-spot Ki67 value predicted only the prognosis of patients in this group. Although tumour metabolic activity was not associated with patients' prognosis, a SUV(MAX) > 2 was related to nodal metastases, tumour size and grade. Conclusions: Our results highlight how tumour heterogeneity influences evaluation of prognostic biomarkers. Our data support Ki67 evaluation to estimate NSCLC patients' prognosis, particularly for adenocarcinoma.
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