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Brown adipose tissue and cancer progression

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The purpose of our study was to determine the role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in cancer progression.

Materials and methods

Our study was approved by our institutional review board and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act–compliant. Our study group comprised 132 cancer patients (116 f, 16 m; mean age 50 ± 16 years) who underwent F18-FDG PET/CT per standard clinical protocol, for staging or surveillance of cancer. We included patients who were BAT-positive on PET/CT and had clinical follow-up data available for at least 12 months or until tumor recurrence or tumor-related death, whichever occurred first. BAT volume by PET/CT was quantified by PET-CT Viewer shareware. Clinical information including tumor type, tumor recurrence, survival, and outside temperature at time of scan were recorded. Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine longitudinal associations between BAT volume and tumor recurrence/mortality.


There were 55 tumor recurrences/tumor-related deaths over a median follow-up period of 71 (33; 110 interquartile range) months. Higher BAT volume was associated with an increased likelihood of tumor recurrence/tumor-associated mortality after adjustment for covariates (p = 0.03).


BAT volume, assessed using routine PET/CT, is a predictor of tumor recurrence/mortality in patients with cancer, independent of other factors that can influence BAT activity, such as sex, age, BMI, or tumor type.

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This study was supported by NIH grants K24 DK-109940 and P30DK040561.

Author information

Correspondence to Miriam A. Bredella.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was waived for this retrospective study.

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Chu, K., Bos, S.A., Gill, C.M. et al. Brown adipose tissue and cancer progression. Skeletal Radiol 49, 635–639 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00256-019-03322-w

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  • Brown adipose tissue (BAT)
  • Body composition
  • Survival
  • Tumor recurrence