RSNA preview: Cancer specialists voice mixed feelings about oncology imaging

November 20, 2008

RSNA presentations on prostate cancer staging and treatment, along with talks on radiation therapy for thoracic malignancies, have piqued the interest of cancer care specialists. But in general, oncologists and radiation oncologists conveyed some reservations about this year’s offerings in oncologic imaging and therapies.

RSNA presentations on prostate cancer staging and treatment, along with talks on radiation therapy for thoracic malignancies, have piqued the interest of cancer care specialists. But in general, oncologists and radiation oncologists conveyed some reservations about this year's offerings in oncologic imaging and therapies.

Dr. Thomas Smith from Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center in Richmond and Dr. Monica Bertagnolli from Boston's Harvard Medical School, cited as noteworthy a paper by Egyptian researchers on the utility of PET/CT in staging and restaging prostate cancer (SSA18-02, Sunday, 10:55 a.m., Room E353C).

Dr. Judd Moul, from the division of urologic surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, singled out a paper on ultrasonic tissue-type imaging of prostate cancer by Ernest J. Feleppa, Ph.D., and colleagues from the Riverside Research Institute in New York (SSJ12-03, Tuesday, 3:20 p.m., Room E353B). Moul said that he was looking forward to learning more about the commercial application of this technology for therapy planning.

Bertagnolli, along with Dr. Andrew Seidman from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, earmarked a scientific session on gynecologic oncology (SSA10-01 to SSA10-09, Sunday, 10:45 a.m., Room E353A) for its broad appeal. Papers include research on quantitative diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) for uterine diseases and a study on DWI versus PET/CT in imaging uterine cervical cancer.

On the radiation oncology front, Dr. Joel Tepper from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill flagged a session on thoracic malignancies (SSE24-01 to SSE24-06, Monday, 3:00 p.m., Room S102D). Topics covered in the session include protocols to reduce toxicity and the effects of smoking cessation in patients undergoing cancer treatment.

But for cancer care specialists who are accustomed to large-scale multicenter trials -- often with thousands of subjects -- the prevalence at RSNA of single-center studies and results gleaned from small patient populations is unusual.

"I don't think we really learn very much from one center's 11-year experience with liver cancer, other than that people often prefer to be very aggressive about treatment." Smith said, referring to a study that outlines one institution's experience with chemoembolization of hepatocellular carcinoma.

Moul questioned how a 13-case study on carbon-11 choline PET/CT for prostate cancer recurrence was accepted at the RSNA.

In an interview with Diagnostic Imaging, Dr. Bruce Haffty, cochair of the RSNA oncologic imaging and therapies task force, said that the sessions are intended to bring participants up to date regarding oncologic imaging, radiation treatment, and multidisciplinary care in this era of complex and rapidly evolving technology.

The goal is to highlight current clinical applications as well as new development in the field and offer some perspective on the future of oncologic imaging, said Haffty, who is based at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick.

"This year, the topics we will focus on are head and neck cancers, lung cancer, central nervous system cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancers, and gynecologic cancers, all of which are common malignancies seen in everyday practices," he said.

Other oncology-related sessions this year include a special focus session on quantitative structured reporting in cancer imaging (SFN10, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., Room S402AB) and a molecular imaging symposium (M142, Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., Room S406B) that will cover angiogenesis imaging and molecular phenotypes.

Ms. Pal is the news editor of Oncology News International, a sister publication of Diagnostic Imaging.