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


Using Q.Freeze technology, GE’s Discovery PET/CT 610 aims to automatically correct the distortion that happens as the patient breathes—a primary culprit of attenuation. “This is really the future, where the PET/CT space is going. From the diagno sis staging spot in the care continuum to the treatment monitoring space,” says Jamie McCoy, chief marketing officer for MR/CT products at GE Healthcare.

PET/MRI
PET/MRI is the newest hybrid imaging system to hit the market. GE, Philips and Siemens all sell PET/MRI systems, while Siemens is the first to offer a whole body and simultaneous acquisition PET/MRI system.

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The Siemens Biograph mMR integrates a PET ring detector featuring solid-state photodiodes and 3T MR. Data for both modalities is acquired simultaneously as the scanner runs MR protocols and the PET camera records photon strikes from the radiotracer.

The technology, which combines PET’s physiological imaging with the soft tissue visualization capabilities of MRI, has particularly strong potential for neurology, which already relies heavily on MRI to visualize brain tissue.

PET/MRI may one day take over brain, neck and prostate cancer applications and also has the potential to take over certain cardiovascular uses unexplored by PET/ CT, such as plaque characterization. Studies show that PET/MRI may be effective at detecting macrophage cells that indicate inflammation in atherosclerotic plaque.

Proponents are billing this technology as a better, lower-dose version of PET/CT that will eventually overtake its place in oncology. “It’s definitely useful in certain indications such as in pediatric patients to reduce radiation exposure,” says Iagaru. But he also warns that reimbursement issues will significantly hinder adoption. “I think they should reimburse it. But the trend is to reimburse less and less. It’s convenient for a subset of patients but I don’t think reimbursement will be equal to the reimbursement for PET or MR,” he says.

Dr. Stanley J. Goldsmith, a leader in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging and former professor of radiology and medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, cautions against buying into the hype too quickly. “People are tripping over themselves to get this latest and greatest, most expensive thing when we don’t know the incremental advantage,” he says. Goldsmith also thinks more people would have a problem with the claustrophobic effects of MRI machines than with dose levels in CT. “Frankly, I think most of the anxiety associated with radiation is overdone,” he says.

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