Predicting PET imaging's future: Diagnosing and treating diseases ASAP

RESTON, Va. -- Imagine a new world of detecting and diagnosing diseases sooner--even before any symptoms are present. Consider the possibility of receiving individualized, targeted molecular, cellular or genetic medical treatment as soon as possible and of undergoing scanning that can quickly tell your doctor whether your treatment is working. Continued advances in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging are key to this future, according to Simon R. Cherry, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of California, Davis.

"Earlier detection of diseases and of the effect of treatment on them is the main impetus in advancing PET technology," says Cherry, who offered predictions about PET's growing importance in the November issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. In the far future, individuals may be able to take a simple--as yet undeveloped--annual blood and/or urine test to screen protein or metabolite levels that could indicate common diseases, said the author of "The 2006 Henry N. Wagner Lecture: Of Mice and Men (and Positrons)--Advances in PET Imaging Technology." Since nearly all diseases alter the body's biochemical processes, "this type of test could allow a doctor to compare a patient's results with those from previous years and flag a beginning disease process," added the director of the UC Davis Center for Molecular and Genomic Imaging. "Once a change is noted, it will be critical to localize and visualize the disease and monitor how it responds to therapy. This is where PET technology offers powerful opportunities," he said. With PET's molecular imaging ability--the ability to "photograph" biological targets or pathways--doctors will be able to detect molecular changes that could provide valuable information about treating and even preventing the onset of Alzheimer's or other brain disorders, cancers and heart disease. "PET's diagnostic ability in the future will tell us something about the precise molecular makeup of disease in

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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