The finding is "provocative" and requires more research, write Robert James Cerfolio, MD, FACS, FCCP, and colleagues in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
Lung images called "PET" are short for positron emission technology. It provides a high-tech look inside the body. PET scans have already been shown to be useful for diagnosing some cancers, write the researchers.
They suggest that other PET scan data may also help. The data show how hungry tumors are for glucose (blood sugar), yielding a "maximum standard uptake value."
Cerfolio's study focused on 315 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Those with lower maximum standard uptake values were more likely to live longer and have less aggressive tumors, write Cerfolio and colleagues.
If bigger tests yield the same results, maximum standard uptake values could be used in addition to current lung cancer staging, write the researchers.
Cerfolio is an associate professor of surgery and chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a news release, he calls for large studies on the topic. Meanwhile, "these results have already changed things in our own practice and the way we report a patient's clinical or pathological stage," he says in the news release.