Special report: Will molecular imaging deliver on its promises?

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | June 14, 2013
International Day of Radiology 2012
From the June 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

PET/CT is the success story other multimodality systems can only hope to emulate. According to technology research firm The Advisory Board Company, PET/CT has one of the rosier outlooks within the market, poised to grow 22 percent over the next five years and 55 percent over the next 10.

This growth is driven by several factors, one of which is a recent drop in PET/CT scanner prices from between $1.8 and $3 million down to between $1.2 and $2.3 million. Patient scan times have also decreased dramatically from between 45 and 60 minutes in dedicated PET scanners to just 5 to 15 minutes in PET/CT scanners, meaning improved patient throughput.

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Though CT can successfully detect lesions, CT is unable to determine whether these lesions are malignant or benign. On the other hand, PET lacks anatomical precision. Fusing these two modalities together allows for a highly sensitive and precise scan that assists oncologists with early detection of disease and the staging of therapy.

PET/CT works by combining two complementary modalities in one. PET utilizes radioisotope fluorine-18, most commonly attached to the molecule fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which concentrates in quickly metabolizing tissue such as tumors.

CT provides cross-sectional images of the body, providing clearer view of body organ structure than traditional X-ray.

“The sum is better than the parts in this case. And the customer flexibility of clinical diagnostic PET/CT is an advantage. If you don’t have enough patients to do the PET/ CT you can do the CT alone,” says Stanford University’s Iagaru.

Siemens Biograph mCT

Indeed, Siemens designed its Biograph PET/CT scanners with cost-conscious flexibility in mind. If customers decide to invest in a better system 10 years down the line, the manufacturer gives them the option to buy upgrades for the next-generation three ring or four ring or 64 or 128 slice system. “We’ve designed and engineered these things so you can buy them as your need develops,” says Robert Brait, molecular imaging product manager at Siemens.

There’s also more good news on the cost front: since growing clinical evidence shows that PET/CT may also be effective for treatment monitoring, CMS reached a “no-decision” about therapy monitoring, letting payers decide what to do, further fueling its growth.

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