Speaker: David Kuhl (UM Radiology)
Emission reconstruction tomography (SPECT, PET) is a scanning method that produces accurate cross sectional images of radioactive tracers after they have been targeted to detect and quantify key neurochemical and metabolic processes within living patients. Origins of this kind of molecular imaging emerged in the early 1960s, when the time for a beginning was right. Technical advances in digital computers, detectors, radioactive tracers and increases in research funding coincided. Together, these would enable the first proofs-of-principle for emission reconstruction tomography. Further progress depended strongly upon complex multidisciplinary efforts integrating medical science, physics, chemistry and engineering in full partnership.
Molecular imaging with emission tomography is now an essential part of the care of patients with cancer, heart and brain disorders. Research emphasizes earlier diagnosis and linkage to drug development. From brain research, there is increasing appreciation that new pharmacological classifications of patient groups (e.g., spatial patterns of metabolism, neurotransmitters, enzymes, proteinaceous accumulations) may redefine long-established clinical classifications and thus lead to earlier diagnosis and new treatments. Cancer research, hand-in-hand with drug development, gives hope that the targeting of new drugs may be matched to specific features of an individual's tumor (e.g., proliferation, receptors, angiogenesis, hypoxia) and support personalized treatment that is more effective. Real benefits to patients will continue to be driven by these kinds of long-term research.