School of Medicine

$6.3 million for center to develop new tracers for PET scans

Robert Gropler, MD, and Janet McGill, MD, both of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, discuss a PET scan. Gropler has received a five-year, $6.3 million grant that will help establish the PET Radiotracer Translation and Resource Center at the university's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. (Photo: Washington University)

Could improve early diagnosis, precision medicine for cancer, atherosclerosis, other diseases

From the WashU Newsroom

PET scans can reveal subtle signs of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis not detectable through other imaging tools. The technology holds enormous promise for improving early diagnosis, monitoring the effectiveness of treatment, and tailoring therapy to each individual’s particular needs.

PET scans rely on radioactive compounds, or tracers, to identify signs of disease in the body. Such tracers can be injected, inhaled or swallowed – depending on the organ under study ­– and when they find their target, they show up as bright spots on scans. By reading such scans, researchers can detect indications of disease such as toxic clumps of proteins and clusters of tumor cells.

A few PET-based diagnostics have been approved by the FDA, but experts believe the technology could do so much more – if only there were more people designing and testing new PET tracers. With the help of a five-year, $6.3 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Robert J. Gropler, MD, a professor of radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, aims to help PET technology reach its potential by expanding the community of PET researchers.

Few research institutions are equipped to design and test new PET tracers. Making the radioactive part of a tracer requires a multimillion-dollar machine called a cyclotron – and shepherding experimental radioactive compounds through the regulatory labyrinth to approval for use in people is an art form in itself. The university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) is one of only a handful of sites nationwide with the expertise and infrastructure needed to generate and evaluate novel PET tracers.

  Read more at The Source.