Congress cuts $23 million from nuclear medicine research

November 11, 2005

Nuclear medicine scientists expressed dismay about Congressional approval of a federal budget plan that could close the book on a half-century of nuclear medicine research sponsored by the Department of Energy.

Nuclear medicine scientists expressed dismay about Congressional approval of a federal budget plan that could close the book on a half-century of nuclear medicine research sponsored by the Department of Energy.

The budget plan, approved by the House and Senate Nov. 10, cuts DOE spending for nuclear medicine science by $23 million. The new budget will eliminate funding for more than 80 projects in molecular medicine conducted mainly at the DOE's national laboratories at Brookhaven, NY, Los Alamos, NM, and Pine Ridge, TN, according to the Society of Nuclear Medicine.

Restoration of the cuts is the SNM's top legislative priority. The cuts threaten to break a historic link between the advancement of nuclear medicine technologies and DOE-funded programs that originated with the former Atomic Energy Commission's Atoms for Peace program in 1954. DOE-supported research helped fund development of SPECT and PET cameras, the molybdenum-99m/technetium-99m generator, F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose for medical imaging applications, and other key discoveries.

The budget cuts will pull the plug on discoveries that could have translated into better disease management for millions of patients fighting oncologic, neurologic, and cardiovascular diseases each year, according to SNM president Dr. Peter Conti. Nuclear medicine researchers fear the loss of the DOE programs will slow research leading to new radioisotopes for nuclear medicine, production of rare radioisotopes for cancer therapy, and training of new nuclear chemists to lead future research efforts.

Some National Cancer Institute officials have suggested that many DOE-funded projects could qualify for NCI grants. But nuclear medicine researchers are concerned about the loss of DOE infrastructure, such as cyclotrons at Brookhaven and Los Alamos, and the dismantling of research staffs devoted to nuclear medicine research.

"The outcome is clear. Basic nuclear and molecular imaging research will decline beginning in 2006, and our professional community may have to fight a hard battle to maintain other federal research funding in 2007," Conti said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Advocates opposed planned cuts in clinical research

Funding cuts imperil nuclear medicine's innovative tradition