Nuclear medicine coming of age

A new total-body positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scanner hopes to revolutionise the understanding and treatment of disease through the analysis of better imaging data from the entire body.

In an article published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM), scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) outline the development and benefits of the diagnostic tool and explain how enhancing PET sensitivity will advance clinical research and patient care.

Terry Jones, DSc, clinical professor of diagnostic radiology at UC Davis, highlights the benefits of total-body PET: “It will offer the ability to detect throughout the whole body the location of focal pathologies, including cancer, infection, and inflammation at considerably lower levels of disease activity than is currently possible,” he said. “It will also reduce the time taken to scan the whole body by at least a factor of 10, leading to scan times that could be less than one minute. This, for example, will make it far easier to scan infant and paediatric subjects without anaesthesia or sedation.”

In addition, this method reduces radiation exposure, as Jones explained: “Whole-body PET scans could be performed for a radiation dose roughly equivalent to that received from a round-trip transatlantic flight.”

According to the JNM article, total-body PET offers several opportunities to change the methodological approach to cancer detection and staging, and this same methodology could also be applied to other systemic conditions, including inflammation, vascular disease, sepsis and infectious disease.

The new technology is approaching clinical readiness, with the design of the first prototype total-body PET/CT scanner, called EXPLORER, having been completed in collaboration with United Imaging Healthcare. Components are currently being fabricated and tested. According to Jones, the development of total-body PET/CT is a ‘nuclear medicine coming of age’.