WVU’s pioneering nuclear medicine imaging research wins $2 million grant

PEM/PET system offers 3D look at breast tumors

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A sophisticated nuclear medicine imaging device that can give a 3D look at otherwise undetectable breast tumors has earned West Virginia University researchers $2 million over four years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The PEM/PET system created at WVU is the only one in the world that uses positron emission mammography (PEM) and positron emission tomography (PET) to image the breast and guide biopsy of suspicious areas detected in the images.

Part of the money will be used to incorporate an x-ray-CT imaging system into the device, said Raymond R. Raylman, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of research in the WVU School of Medicine Department of Radiology.   PEM/PET was originally developed by the radiology research group under a $1.7 million NIH grant.

Nuclear medicine imaging device can give a 3D look at breast tumors that may be otherwise undetectable

“CT imaging will give us structural information about the breast by providing a 3D x-ray,” Raylman explained. “That way in addition to detecting breast cancer we can monitor treatment to see if it’s effective. Physicians would be able to learn within a few weeks rather than waiting months to see if chemotherapy is effective and make a change in treatment if warranted.”

WVU’s partners in the research project are the University of Washington, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Xoran Technologies, a company that specializes in small CT scanners.

In addition to the new hardware, the NIH grant will also fund a clinical trial of 300 breast cancer patients expected to begin in two years, once the new hardware is assembled.

A test of the current system with six breast cancer patients found that the device not only gave a clear look at tumors but also, in at least one case, showed a cancerous infiltration into a mammary duct that remained invisible on a mammogram. Raylman presented the assessment to colleagues at the annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in Toronto in June.

Ultimately researchers expect the device will be used to detect very small tumors, even in dense breasts that traditionally produce less-than-optimal mammography scans. Scanning time on the current system is less than 10 minutes per patient.

The team of researchers has also received a second grant from NIH for $1.7 million to create an imaging system marrying PET technology with MRI to be used to carry out basic cancer research. The project is expected to start Sept. 1.

For information on nuclear imaging at WVU see  http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/radio/cai/research.asp.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
AB: 08-12-09

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