New preclinical research abounds in 2011

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The New Year has welcomed a wealth of clinical research opportunities in the field of molecular imaging, which range from the general with potential new utilizations for SPECT to the specific, as imaging is showing promise in animal models for brain metastases and liver cancer.

For instance, the department of bioengineering and aerospace engineering at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid is focusing on the development of preclinical molecular imaging scanners used in research work on animals. Obtaining good quality images in these applications constitutes a much more difficult technical challenge than with humans, due to the large difference in size (with animals being approximately 280 times smaller).

"SPECT is probably the most widespread molecular imagining technique in clinical practice, and from there stems the interest in having preclinical systems which allow the study of human illnesses to be carried out on animals,” said Manuel Desco, MD, PhD, professor in the department bioengineering and aerospace engineering at Universidad Carlos III.

Meanwhile, a study of the livers of 10 rabbits is leading South Korean investigators to suggest that arterial enhancement fraction of liver tumors is superior to cine mode perfusion CT.

In the U.S., researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, have suggested that a genetic element, known as progression elevated gene-3 (PEG-3) promoter, could lead to improved and the earlier detection of tumors and metastases in patients and could allow clinicians to monitor the cancer's response to therapy.

Clinical researchers are not the only ones guiding the direction of preclinical imaging, as industry also is having a hand.  Philips Healthcare initiated a German public-private partnership that aims to advance the development of whole-body magnetic particle imaging (MPI) systems and preclinical hybrid systems that combine MPI with MRI. Also, the FDA cleared Areva’s phase I clinical trial for a new treatment aimed at combating cancer using the lead-212 isotope.

In a year that is bound to be exciting for researchers and industry, please send along any updates on new developments in the field of preclinical imaging.

Justine Cadet