Nuc med society modifies name, emphasizes molecular imaging

August 28, 2006

The Society of Nuclear Medicine has shed its full name in favor of its acronym and a new tagline: “SNM: Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy.” The modification comes amid rapid changes in technology, therapy, and imaging. Diagnostic Imaging asked SNM president Dr. Martin Sandler to talk about the transformation.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine has shed its full name in favor of its acronym and a new tagline: "SNM: Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy." The modification comes amid rapid changes in technology, therapy, and imaging. Diagnostic Imaging asked SNM president Dr. Martin Sandler to talk about the transformation.

Diagnostic Imaging: Is the idea behind the move to use the acronym merely to bring molecular imaging into the fold or to change the focus of the society?

Martin Sandler: The Society of Nuclear Medicine is very well known, so we wanted to keep our identity but also move forward in the rapidly growing field of molecular imaging and therapy.

There are many parts to molecular imaging and therapy in which we already are engaged to a significant degree, and there are many parts of molecular imaging and therapy that are in evolution, including optical imaging and certain elements of MRI. We want to be able to add other related areas of imaging as they develop to our base of physiological imaging.

DI: Is this perhaps an attempt to downplay the word "nuclear," which can be perceived negatively?

MS: I don't think this is an attempt to downplay our core constituency, but at the same time we want to strike a balance with the broadening applications that are here today and in evolution for tomorrow. We are primarily physicians who image single and positron-emitting isotopes. But we are a society that has to enlarge its scope since many innovations, such as hybrid imaging and molecular probes, have been developed by members of our society.

We already have formulated guidelines for nuclear medicine physicians to be trained in CT imaging where it is applicable to us and CT angiography where it's applicable to ischemic heart disease. The nuclear medicine residency program as well reflects these changes and is now expanded to three years, which include four months of CT training. We're moving into PET/MRI as well.

It's very important that we as a society expand our scope so that the people who develop these technologies and the next generation of probes for these technologies are able to stay involved with us. These areas are where the primary creativity is coming from, all the way from drug discovery to drug development.

In many ways, we are modeling ourselves after radiologists, who are able to train in new modalities as they are brought to the marketplace. Our specialty is moving primarily from nuclear to molecular imaging. I think it's appropriate for SNM to take on that kind of projection of itself.

DI: How do all these rapid advances interact with each other?

MS: There is an enormous cross linkage into the field of molecular imaging, which has been discussed for at least a decade and is now moving to the forefront. We recently had a molecular imaging meeting with industry and discussed basic research, drug development, technology, and education.

Companies are facing the same challenges that we are. They want to know how best to take advantage of this rapidly developing technology so that they can advance their products and their technology base. They want to know, for example, what kinds of detectors will best suit the next generation of imaging systems. We're starting to develop a matrix on which we can build this complex group of technologies that are very interdependent on each other.

DI: Does the change also reflect a need for greater inclusion of other specialists into the society?

MS: Yes, we want to open up the society to basic scientists, chemists, and others who are on the forefront of molecular imaging. For instance, where do technologists who work in a molecular imaging center running microPET scanners belong? Or techs who run bioluminescent systems, where do they belong? We hope they and others will look at SNM as a potential home, because we will be developing and enhancing all these different technologies.

We are expanding the scope of articles that appear in our journal and developing an educational syllabus that reflects these changes. We also have plans to meet with the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology to design appropriate clinical trials.

Molecular imaging has many tentacles to it. We include single isotope SPECT and positron-emitting PET. People will define molecular imaging as they see fit. We are getting ready to publish a white paper on our definition.

For some, molecular imaging means going to the level of genomics and proteomics. That's really getting into drug discovery, and we may not go there. But we believe that our imaging modalities will be well suited to look at the development of genomics and proteomics. It's all tied together.