PurposeThe aims of this multicentre retrospective study of locally advanced head and neck cancer (LAHNC) treated with definitive radiotherapy were to (1) identify positron emission tomography (PET)-F-18-fluorodeoxyglucose (F-18-FDG) parameters correlated with overall survival (OS) in a training cohort, (2) compute a prognostic model, and (3) externally validate this model in an independent cohort.Materials and methodsA total of 237 consecutive LAHNC patients divided into training (n=127) and validation cohorts (n=110) were retrospectively analysed. The following PET parameters were analysed: SUVMax, metabolic tumour volume (MTV), total lesion glycolysis (TLG), and SUVMean for the primary tumour and lymph nodes using a relative SUVMax threshold or an absolute SUV threshold. Cox analyses were performed on OS in the training cohort. The c-index was used to identify the highly prognostic parameters. A prognostic model was subsequently identified, and a nomogram was generated. The model was externally tested in the validation cohort.ResultsIn univariate analysis, the significant PET parameters for the primary tumour included MTV (relative thresholds from 6 to 83% and absolute thresholds from 1.5 to 6.5) and TLG (relative thresholds from 1 to 82% and absolute thresholds from 0.5 to 4.5). For the lymph nodes, the significant parameters included MTV and TLG regardless of the threshold value. In multivariate analysis, tumour site, p16 status, MTV35% of the primary tumour, and MTV44% of the lymph nodes were independent predictors of OS. Based on these four parameters, a prognostic model was identified with a c-index of 0.72. The corresponding nomogram was generated. This prognostic model was externally validated, achieving a c-index of 0.66.ConclusionsA prognostic model of OS based on primary tumour and lymph node MTV, tumour site, and p16 status was proposed and validated. The corresponding nomogram may be used to tailor individualized treatment.