Hospital in Sweden first in Europe to receive new technology with the aim to improve cancer care
Uppsala, Sweden – Tucked away in the northern part of Europe, one might not expect to encounter many world-firsts in this Nordic city.
But Uppsala has a long history of innovation and academics that extends far beyond its small size and its country’s borders. Carl von Linné created the system for classifying and naming nature here and it is where natural scientist Anders Celsius constructed a thermometer superior in its precision. Uppsala University was also one of the first in Europe to open an anatomical theatre, Gustavianum, in 1663.
It is here, in this city, where barrier-breaking medical and scientific research continues to build off that history.
In late September, Uppsala University Hospital became one of two hospitals in the world to start using a new PET/CT Discovery™ MI imaging system from GE Healthcare with the intention to improve cancer care, and to take clinical research into practice more efficiently.
As a result, the PET-center at Uppsala University Hospital has been appointed as the priority reference site in Europe by GE Healthcare, which means that the new system will be evaluated using the around 25 different PET-tracers available at the hospital’s PET Centre for routine PET scanning and clinical research.
Strong image quality leading to better diagnosis and care
“We will be using the system with different patient groups, but cancer patients represent the largest group, says Gunnar Antoni Adj. Professor in Pharmaceutical Radiochemistry, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Uppsala University and Head of PET Centre at Uppsala University Hospital.
“The whole-body scanning feature helps us to see more efficiently if the cancer has spread, and the improved image quality aids us to recognize small metastases, where they are located, and if they are close to each other. For surgeons, this is very valuable information.”
Besides cancer patients, the system can be used for the diagnosis of coronary artery diseases, in neurological examinations, such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy and when, for example, suspecting dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. The new PET/CT is also critical for clinical research conducted at the hospital – the goal is to introduce the research results into routine medical care.
“Similarly, when it comes to brain examination, we will be better equipped to detect small brain lesions and to localize eventual changes in the brain, for example in epilepsy. A very concrete benefit will become available for our patients with tuberous sclerosis. Every year, around 10 children are born in Sweden with this disease, which leads to treatment of resistant epilepsy, and until now we have sent them to France or Canada for further examination. Now we don’t have to do this anymore”, Antoni tells.
“Another key benefit that we will be able to offer for our patients is the reduced dose of radioactive tracer. This is particularly important for children and young people”, Antoni continues.
Workhorse and to go from 3,500 cancer examinations to 5,000 per year
Antoni believes that PET/CT systems will become increasingly common, real work-horses in the Swedish hospitals, even in the regional ones. This means that the work is becoming multi-disciplinary, requiring competence both within nuclear medicine (PET) and radiology (CT).
According to Antoni this requires new type of competence within the medical profession, but in general the clinicians are positive, because they will be able to extract better data and offer more efficient care for their patients.
However, it will be critical to develop and produce new type of PET tracers for clinical diagnostic, otherwise the multiple benefits brought by the new PET/CT systems will not meet their full potential. Uppsala University Hospital has its own advanced tracer production with about 25 different tracers currently in use for clinical routine investigations and clinical research, but Antoni points out that also the regional hospitals need to be served in the future, as the expectations for PET/CT examinations are only getting higher.
”Currently, we are examining around 3,500 cancer patients per year in Uppsala, but we need to take this up to 5,000-6,000 examinations per year in a relatively short period of time, as the National Board of Health and Welfare has introduced new national requirements for certain cancer types, seeking to implement faster diagnosis, improved patient pathways and standardized care for cancer patients”, Antoni tells.
”Modern technology has a key role to fulfill this requirement – Discovery MI is fast and it has a larger field-of-view, which can lead to shorter examination times and that we will be able to take in more patients per day. Similarly, this benefits patients, who have claustrophobia or problems with motoric, for example patents with Parkinson’s Disease. Patient experience and so called soft approaches to patient care are becoming increasingly important and a sign for high-quality care”, Antoni concludes.
 Socialstyrelsen / The National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden.