PET registry boosts coverage outlook for rare cancers

February 24, 2006

After a year of hammering out the fine print, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Academy of Molecular Imaging announced this month that they have started collecting data for the National Oncologic PET Registry.

After a year of hammering out the fine print, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Academy of Molecular Imaging announced this month that they have started collecting data for the National Oncologic PET Registry.

The effort aims to increase evidence of PET's efficacy in many less prevalent cancers, resulting in reimbursement coverage.

The registry will provide a new method for organizations outside CMS to evaluate technology with input from CMS. In turn, CMS will use the data to make decisions about coverage policies.

Current PET reimbursement does not cover certain rare cancers such as soft-tissue sarcomas, brain, cervical, ovarian, pancreatic, small cell lung, and testicular. The uncommon nature of these cancers added to physician reluctance to order studies that do not pay makes it nearly impossible to obtain enough data to convince CMS to issue national coverage for these cancers, said Dr. R. Edward Coleman, former president of AMI.

"The National Oncologic PET Registry will permit evaluation of PET and PET/CT in less prevalent cancers to determine if coverage is appropriate or not," said Coleman, vice chair of radiology at Duke University.

By participating in the registry, physicians can obtain Medicare reimbursement for PET scanning of cancers not previously covered, with the exception of a few indications for breast cancer and melanomas. Many currently covered indications include diagnosis, staging, and restaging but leave out treatment monitoring. The registry offers physicians the opportunity to be paid for using PET to monitor therapeutic response.

The American College of Radiology manages the AMI-sponsored NOPR project through its Imaging Network (ACRIN) consortium. Other professional organizations involved include the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Society of Nuclear Medicine. The NOPR is a national Internet-based audited data repository that is designed to gather PET data from beneficiaries and providers and to report on those data.

The NOPR affords oncologists and nuclear medicine physicians a unique opportunity to make PET available to Medicare beneficiaries and to improve physicians' understanding of the role of PET in oncology practice, said Dr. Barry Siegel, who also worked with CMS and ACRIN to design, establish, and implement the PET Registry.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

National Oncologic PET Registry takes initial enrollment steps

Regulatory issues hamper launch of new PET registry

Government initiates interim plan to cover PET

Terms of CMS-mandated PET tumor registry become clear

All clinical sides take hard look at PET and PET/CT