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PET/CT Emerging as Valuable Tool for Planning and Monitoring Cancer Treatment

Approximately 95 percent of PET/CT procedures are oncology-based. And although PET is most commonly used for diagnosing and staging cancer, there has been a recent surge of investigation into how it can positively influence the treatment of patients — specifically for planning and monitoring.

This week at the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, GE Healthcare is talking a lot about innovations that can improve the patient experience (see links to press releases below). In the area of molecular imaging, PET/CT is proving to have untapped potential to inform doctors and their patients during the course of treatment. By using PET/CT early in the process, clinicians can understand whether a treatment is being effective, and adapt accordingly.*

Knowing early in the cycle that the treatment being given is effective can provide peace of mind. It’s just as important to know if the treatment is not effective, so that a different course of treatment can be offered to patients without having to go through an entire 12-week regimen before making a change or continuing with radiation that may not be making a difference.

“This allows us to make a better determination [about] the next step in chemotherapy,” says Dr. Simeon Jaggernauth, Medical Oncologist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southwestern Regional Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “That is, should we continue at the same dose? Should we raise the dose? Should we lower the dose, or should we stop treatment? By knowing how the activity changes over time, this quantitative and qualitative information then allows us to take better care of the patient.”

PET is different from the more traditional imaging systems, which simply identify anatomic location or tumor size. Instead, PET records molecular activity indicative of rapid tumor growth. PET and CT are often used together to collect both metabolic and anatomic information in order to provide a comprehensive look inside the body, allowing a comparison of the molecular activity within the tumor, as compared to normal tissue such as muscle.

Think of a CT image as a geographic map and the PET image as the weather system. The two images together, just like a weather map on the local news, provide both the location of the tumor in the body and the molecular activity in the tumor.

PET/CT pinpoints the location of a tumor in relation to normal structures so oncologists can individualize treatment plans and take full advantage of advanced therapies to improve outcomes. But they also present new challenges such as understanding tumor and organ motion – which GE Healthcare is addressing with tools that enable clinicians to plan in multiple modalities and manage tumor motion successfully.

Since changes in tumor function often precede changes in tumor size PET/CT systems can in some cases provide early indication of disease progression and treatment response. As a result, clinicians have vital information to guide more timely treatment decisions in order to optimize clinical effectiveness and better manage the costs of treatment.

A powerful tool in that regard is GE Healthcare’s PET VCAR (Volume Computer Assisted Reading), which gives clinicians both a visual and a quantitative look at disease progression and tumor response. Having immediate access to interactive reports on their patients’ progress, clinicians can manage workflow with greater confidence and efficiency.

About Discovery PET/CT
GE Healthcare introduced the first commercially available PET/CT scanner and continues to be a pioneer in the field of molecular imaging. GE Healthcare’s family of Discovery™ PET/CT systems provides a spectrum of capabilities, so doctors can select the technology best suited to their practice and to patients’ needs.

The Discovery PET/CT series provides outstanding image quality. With one of the highest-rated sensitivities in the industry, GE Healthcare scanners are designed to potentially improve cancer detection, enable faster scans, and reduce dose requirements.

Discovery PET/CT systems aid workflow efficiency and patient comfort with unique features like the 70cm wide bore that offers a full PET and CT field of view, a large patient table and a 2m horizontal scan range for full head to toe imaging. Combined, these efficiencies allow patients to finish exams in a timely manner, as images become available quickly for physicians to review.

Six out of ten PET/CT systems installed at the top cancer centers in the US are from GE Healthcare. What’s more, GE PET/CT systems have been rated the most reliable in the industry since 2006 by IMV ServiceTrak, a reflection of the robust technology and excellent service for which GE Healthcare is known. That level of reliability and predictability is critical in cancer care, where regularity of treatment helps to optimize outcomes, throughput and patient confidence.

* Hillner, BE et al “Relationship Between Cancer Type and Impact of PET and PET/CT on Intended Management: Findings of the National Oncologic PET Registry” J Nucl Med 2008; 49:1928–1935.