COLUMBUS, Ohio – Physicians and scientists in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center say a new, 16-slice PET/CT is helping them better understand how cancer grows and spreads, and how patients respond to individualized therapy.
Michael Knopp, M.D., Ph.D.
“Simply put, PET/CT combines the best of two worlds,” says Dr. Michael Knopp, chair of the department of radiology at Ohio State. “It is enabling us to monitor therapy right from the start.”
PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computerized tomography) offer clinicians important information about cancer and other diseases, but each measures something very different. While CT reveals anatomical information, PET highlights important biological activity. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks.
In the past, physicians who have wanted a comprehensive look at information from both tests have had to rely upon time-consuming and labor-intensive procedures to combine both images. But Knopp says PET/CT eliminates that process.
“PET/CT fuses the information faster and more effectively,” Knopp says. “It also lessens the possibility of error and significantly reduces the patient’s appointment time.”
Perhaps most importantly, PET/CT allows scientists at Ohio State to advance their knowledge of cancer’s molecular underpinnings and how patients respond to treatment – two important goals the state of Ohio recognized when it helped fund the enterprise through grants from the Wright Center for Innovation and the Biomedical Research and Technology Transfer program.
Knopp, who holds the Novartis Chair for Imaging Research and who is also a member of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, is a world leader in utilizing new imaging systems to further understanding of cancer biology. He says PET/CT will be extremely valuable in refining current studies designed to show how individual tumors respond to chemotherapy.
“Older methods required patients and their doctors to wait weeks and even months to see if the chemotherapy was working. With this technology, we’ll be able to assess that much more quickly, possibly as early as the first round of treatment. If we see that a particular regimen isn’t working, we will be able to move more quickly to choose another course of action that may be helpful,” says Knopp.
The PET/CT system Ohio State is now using is the Biograph 16, made by Siemens, Inc.
In undergoing a PET/CT scan, patients first are “scouted” with a head-to-toe X-ray and CT, which takes about three minutes. Next, they are injected with a tiny amount of radioactive glucose, called FDG, and positioned on a table that slides into a hollow cylinder encompassing the PET system. Multiple images are taken, revealing bright spots where the glucose is absorbed and metabolized. These “hot spots” are often a sign of cancer, since cancer cells use an unusual amount of glucose, or sugar, as they grow and spread. Knopp says the whole process takes about 30 minutes.
Knopp’s expertise in imaging is a major reason the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), a research consortium funded by the National Cancer Institute, has chosen Ohio State’s research program to coordinate its national repository of research on PET/CT.
“The CALGB designation highlights our initiative and leadership in imaging and will also establish Ohio State as a valuable resource for cancer investigators nationwide,” says Knopp.
While studies show that major medical centers worldwide are quickly moving to PET/CT systems, Knopp says it is not for everybody, and major insurers are still trying to identify where they feel PET/CT offers patients and physicians clearly superior information to help them manage cancer and other diseases.
Most often used in diagnosing metastatic cancer, PET/CT was just recently approved for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for use in certain phases of treatment for breast, brain, cervical, ovarian, pancreatic and testicular cancer. Knopp says clinicians at Ohio State will also be using PET/CT in treating patients with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center is a network of interdisciplinary research programs with over 200 investigators in 13 colleges across the OSU campus, the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute and Children’s Hospital, in Columbus. OSUCCC members conduct research on the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, generating over $95 million annually in external funding.# # #
Medical Center Communications