Molecular imaging: Oncology & beyond

June seems to be the month for molecular imaging. Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, proclaimed it to be “Nuclear and Molecular Imaging Week” during the Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s (SNMMI) annual meeting June 8-12. Not to be outdone by politicians, researchers pulled out all the stops, highlighting how molecular modalities best conventional options in cardiac imaging and treatment response for conditions from breast cancer to major depression.

In fact, the expansion of PET from its traditional role in oncology staging and treatment response may be gaining steam. Multiple studies at SNMMI illustrated its cardiac potential.

Stress myocardial perfusion imaging has been the go-to modality in detecting coronary artery disease (CAD). However, FDG PET delivered improved sensitivity and specificity in detecting stenosis greater than 50 percent, according to research presented at the annual meeting.

“FDG-PET imaging can detect ischemia at a very early stage, even before significant symptoms appear. This molecular imaging technique could potentially be used for initial CAD screening to help doctors better determine a patient’s cardiac risk and manage the care of these patients, who would otherwise be considered to have normal cardiovascular function,” Arun Sasikumar, MD, MBBS, lead researcher from the department of nuclear medicine at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research based in Chandigarh, India, said in a release.

Researchers tested PET’s ability to flex its muscles in other realms as well. FDG PET imaging of the anterior insula may be leveraged to differentiate response to combined treatments for major depressive disorder, which could improve patient management, according to a study published June 12 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Still PET’s practically perfect, and expanding, niche in oncology remained clear at the SNMMI annual meeting. Sang Moo Lim, MD, director of the department of nuclear medicine, National Radiation Emergency Medical Center of the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences in Seoul, paired PET/CT and breast MR imaging datasets to show that combined metabolic and vascular information could predict response to therapy for women with breast cancer. The concept could be extended to other types of cancer, according to the researchers.

Finally, SNMMI selected a PET/CT study illustrating the effectiveness of radium-223 dichloride in treating bone metastases in breast cancer patients with bone-dominant disease as its iconic image of the year.

How is your molecular imaging practice expanding? Please let us know.

Lisa Fratt, editor