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Nuclear Medicine Review Underway

by Barbara Kram, Editor | July 31, 2006
At the request of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, the National Academies have begun a year-long review of the state-of-the-science in nuclear medicine. This study results from the uncertainty about future federal funding for nuclear medicine research that accompanied the drastic reduction in support for the Medical Applications and Measurement Sciences (MAMS) program that had been supported by the Department of Energy for decades. The MAMS program was virtually eliminated in the Administration's 2006 budget and was again not included in the 2007 proposal.

The National Academies review is expected to serve as the basis for decisions regarding the future of the program. Nuclear medicine is a multidisciplinary science and medical specialty that uses radiopharmaceutical agents and radiation-detection instruments for the diagnosis and treatment of disease and for biomedical research.

The National Academy of Science is working with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and other groups to convince the Congress to provide interim funding.

Peter S. Conti, Society of Nuclear Medicine immediate past president, was named as a member the NAS ad hoc committee of experts conducting the review. to review the "state of the science" for nuclear medicine. "The 13-month $700,000 study will provide the opportunity to validate the importance of basic nuclear medicine research," said Conti, a professor of radiology, pharmacy and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. "Nuclear medicine research has a proven record of leading to improvements--from bench to bedside--in the diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening cancer, heart and debilitating neurological diseases that affect millions each year," added the director of the PET Imaging Science Center at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

The study, which will be funded by the Department of Energy/National Institutes of Health, was prompted by a $23 million cut in funding from DOE's 2006 fiscal year budget, effectively eliminating all money for basic nuclear medicine and molecular imaging research. Basic molecular imaging/nuclear medicine research has been funded by the DOE since biomedical research was initially included in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (the Atomic Energy Commission was DOE's predecessor).

The co-chair of SNM's "From Bench to Bedside" molecular imaging fundraising campaign was nominated by peers to serve on the committee based on his expertise in nuclear medicine, according to Naoko Ishibe, NAS program officer of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board in the earth and life studies division. Conti joins a number of SNM members who will be conducting a "state-of-the-science" review of nuclear medicine. These NAS experts--advisers to the nation on medicine, science and engineering--will provide findings and recommendations on these issues: