the shift of imaging from a structural to a molecular focus and the ongoing integration of molecular and functional imaging in cancer management are crucial milestones on the way to patient-tailored medicine. PrOF PAtriCk FLAMen, Head of the nuclear Medicine Department
Main areas Conventional nuclear medicine (SPECT-CT; sentinel node scintigraphy; lymphography)
PET-CT Radionuclide therapy
Diagnostic applications The basic principle of nuclear medicine is that a target or a biomarker (a molecule found in the body that is a sign of normal or abnormal processes, or that can show response to a treatment) is visualised using molecules or drugs that are marked or “labelled” with radioactive elements called (radio)isotopes or radionuclides. After administering such a radioactively labelled molecule, highly sensitive, three-dimensional imaging is performed using special detectors.
The Institute is increasingly integrating two types of imaging, namely molecular or metabolic techniques (scans to look at physiological or biological processes in the body) and structural-morphological ones (scans that look at the structural aspects of disease, tissues and organs). Such “multimodality” technology – using PET and SPECT from nuclear medicine and conventional X-ray CT from radiology – has led indirectly to growing collaboration between the Departments of Nuclear Medicine and Radiology. Together they recently created a Multidisciplinary Platform of Functional Imaging in Oncology, which will ultimately beneﬁt patients by offering the latest diagnostic and therapeutic applications of imaging technology available today.
therapeutic applications The reason that molecules or drugs containing radioactive substances are used to treat cancer is that they can deliver high-dose radiation to a tumour, killing cancer cells while limiting “collateral damage” to the neighbouring non-tumour tissues. This is known as the “magic bullet” approach. For example, the Institute is a referral centre for treating
thyroid cancer patients with high doses of iodine-131. This treatment is given to remove any remaining thyroid tissue following surgery, or to treat recurrent metastatic disease.
FielD, technologies anD MethoDs