PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the value of (99m)Tc Hynic-rh-Annexin-V-Scintigraphy (TAVS), a non-invasive in vivo technique to demonstrate apoptosis in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. METHODS: TAVS were performed before and within 48 h after the first course of cisplatin-based chemoradiation. Radiation dose given to the tumour at the time of post-treatment TAVS was 6-8 Gy. Single-photon emission tomography data were co-registered to planning CT scan. Complete sets of these data were available for 13 patients. The radiation dose at post-treatment TAVS was calculated for several regions of interest (ROI): primary tumour, involved lymph nodes and salivary glands. Annexin uptake was determined in each ROI, and the difference between post-treatment and baseline TAVS represented the absolute Annexin uptake: Delta uptake (DeltaU). RESULTS: In 24 of 26 parotid glands, treatment-induced Annexin uptake was observed. Mean DeltaU was significantly correlated with the mean radiation dose given to the parotid glands (r = 0.59, p = 0.002): Glands that received higher doses showed more Annexin uptake. DeltaU in primary tumour and pathological lymph nodes showed large inter-patient differences. A high correlation was observed on an inter-patient level (r = 0.71, p = 0.006) between the maximum DeltaU in primary tumour and in the lymph nodes. CONCLUSIONS: Within the dose range of 0-8 Gy, Annexin-V-scintigraphy showed a radiation-dose-dependent uptake in parotid glands, indicative of early apoptosis during treatment. The inter-individual spread in Annexin uptake in primary tumours could not be related to differences in dose or tumour volume, but the Annexin uptake in tumour and lymph nodes were closely correlated. This effect might represent a tumour-specific apoptotic response.