The dynamic duo of molecular imaging

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The undisputed strength of molecular imaging is its capability to stage cancer; enabling decisions on the most appropriate and effective course of treatment and delivering greater clinical certainty as to a cancer’s possible outcome. Combined, these attributes have the potential to lower healthcare costs and provide better patient care.

Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston employed PET/CT results to better predict outcomes and determine the appropriate course of treatment for osteosarcoma patients.

Over the course of six years, radiologists at the institution measured the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) and total lesion glycolysis (TLG) for 31 patients on pre-chemotherapeutic and post-chemotherapeutic PET/CT examinations.

Although the SUVmax measurement demonstrated a larger number of more strongly significant covariates, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the change in TLG in patients from pre- to post-chemotherapeutic examinations was a predictor of progression-free survival.

In a separate study, the utilization of MRI with PET/CT imaging demonstrated more accurate staging for cervical cancer patients, resulting in the delivery of the most appropriate therapy for the disease.

“Because both over- and underestimation of disease extent can result in adverse patient outcomes, determining the extent of disease accurately up front is critical,” noted Pari Pandharipande, MD, lead author of the study, which was conducted at the Institute for Technology Assessment in Boston.

In other news, in less than ten days (April 6) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will publish its final coverage statement of PET imaging related to the results of the landmark National Oncologic PET Registry (NOPR) program.

Under the proposal, Medicare will provide coverage on a routine basis for many of the indications now reimbursed under NOPR. However, other indications would be covered only under a coverage with evidence development (CED) program, which likely will be somewhat different than the current NOPR program.  

Because the new policy will become effective the day it is published, providers will need to be alert for details of the final coverage policy, especially if any new codes or modifiers must be used for claims, and as to whether a successor NOPR program has been cleared by CMS.

Be sure to check in on the Health Imaging website, as these important developments in molecular imaging are consistently covered.

Jonathan Batchelor, Web Editor