Making molecular strides in Alzheimers diagnosis

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Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 5.3 million people in the U.S. and is the country’s seventh leading cause of death. The reality of caring for a spouse, parent or grandparent afflicted with the disease is overwhelming; entailing far more than handling the forgetfulness and confusion depicted in the lay media.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, treatments for symptoms can improve the quality of life for patients. As with any disease, early detection leads to more effective treatment.

PET imaging is seen as one of the promising tools that clinicians can utilize in their battle against Alzheimer’s. A pair of recent studies showcased the capabilities of this molecular imaging modality as part of the diagnostic armamentarium.

A multinational team of European scientists recently demonstrated that an 18F-labeled derivative of the 11C Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) may be just as effective as its ‘parent’ molecule as a marker for amyloid plaques. These plaques are an important part of determining the pathogenic process in Alzheimer’s. Finding an 18F-label derivative means the efficacy of 11C-PiB (which needs an onsite cyclotron for manufacture), could be more readily available in the clinical setting.

From Japan comes evidence that depression in Alzheimer’s patients is a pathophysiologic feature of the disease. PET studies conducted at the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Hamamatsu, Japan, employed a radiotracer for serotonin transport as well as the more commonly used metabolic marker, 18F-FDG. They found that Alzheimer’s patients exhibited a significant decrease in presynaptic serotonergic function, which could lead to earlier intervention with psychotropic medications to mitigate depression.

On the reimbursement front, if you conduct cardiac nuclear imaging studies you probably don’t want to see your procedure reimbursement slashed by as much as 30 percent. A variety of proposals under consideration by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could negatively impact your practice and your chance to comment on them closes on August 31. The 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule is posted on the CMS Web site, along with instructions on how to submit comments.

In other news, if you want to find out more about the possibilities for molecular imaging in your practice head over to our Healthcare TechGuide and check out the variety of systems offered there.

Lastly, if you have a comment or report to share about the utilization of molecular imaging and nuclear medicine in your practice, please contact me at the address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jonathan Batchelor, Web Editor