RSNA welcomes visitors to the Molecular Imaging Zone

November 28, 2006

The Molecular Imaging Zone, a new feature of the RSNA meeting, gives radiologists a chance to learn how molecular imaging applies to their current and future practice.

The Molecular Imaging Zone, a new feature of the RSNA meeting, gives radiologists a chance to learn how molecular imaging applies to their current and future practice.

Located in the McCormick Place Lakeside Learning Center, the MI Zone is laid out as a series of small booths and rows of posters featuring academic programs, federal government initiatives, and nonprofit associations responsible for MI's development.

MI developments that were scattered throughout the RSNA scientific program in previous years have been concentrated in the zone this year, according to organizing committee member Dr. Philip O. Alderson.

"We are creating a meeting place to get a concentrated experience covering what molecular imaging has in store for radiology," he said.

The exhibit was organized with the understanding that molecular imaging is entering clinical practice through PET/CT imaging in oncology using FDG, a sugar analog avidly taken up by cancer cells through molecular processes, Alderson said.

As chair of radiology at Columbia University, Alderson is privy to MI research developments that will dramatically improve the ability of medical imaging to diagnose disease earlier than has been possible. Tracking the effectiveness of therapies that are increasingly associated with the genetic expressions of disease is another goal.

"If a patient is genetically predisposed to developing breast or lung cancer, then it is important to begin screening those patients at a younger age with imaging for the disease," he said.

The MI Zone gives molecular imaging research and educational centers an opportunity to showcase their work. The University of Missouri and affiliates at the Harry S. Truman VA Hospital, both in Columbia, described their work on investigational radiopharmaceuticals targeting prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers and melanoma. One agent used by the Missouri researchers is a peptide fragment that targets the BB2 subtype of the bombesin cell-surface receptors, which are overexpressed in prostate cancer. The fragment is linked to a metal chelator that can either carry technetium-99m or indium-111 for diagnostic imaging or lutetium-177 for targeted radio-immunotherapy.

Representing the Optical Society of America, Tom Baer, Ph.D., brought visitors up to speed on the role his 14,000-member society plays in promoting the science of light, including lasers and optical imaging for diagnostic applications. Radiologists rarely think of using optical photons as part of their diagnostic toolkit, but optical imaging can reveal functional processes and biological structures as small as organelles inside individual cells, he said.

In a practical demonstration, Baer showed 3D cine images of macular holes from age-related macular degeneration depicted with optical coherence tomography.

The Society for Molecular Imaging touted collaborations with the RSNA, including a preconference educational symposium on the state of the art of MI that attracted nearly 1000 attendees at its 2006 meeting in Hawaii. The symposium, which also involved the Society of Nuclear Medicine, will be updated in 2007 for presentation at the first joint meeting of the SMI and the Academy of Molecular Imaging in Providence in September.

Centers of academic excellence in MI research and education contributed posters to the zone:

  • The Center for Molecular Imaging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital provided an overview of research that has led to more than 270 published peer-reviewed articles since 2002. The poster described CMIR's postdoctoral and staff training programs in MI, work as a small-animal imaging resource, and efforts in preclinical and clinical MI.

  • Johns Hopkins University also described its small-animal resource program and its basic research in functional MRI of angiogenic processes associated with oncogenesis.

  • Stanford University emphasized its world-class research facilities and achievements in reporter gene imaging strategies and applications in cell trafficking.

  • The Crump Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles touted its work on the development for PET and microPET instrumentation and novel imaging probes, especially relating to neurodegenerative disease.

  • The University of California, Davis featured its contributions to the development of microPET and microPET/CT scanners and its involvement in nanotechnology development for imaging and image-guided cancer therapies.

The Molecular Imaging Zone was developed by an eight-member organizing committee chaired by CMIR director Dr. Ralph Weissleder. In addition to Alderson, its members are Dr. Christoph Bremer of the University of Münster's Institute for Clinical Radiology in Germany, Dr. Sam Gambhir and Dr. Edward Ted Graves of Stanford, Dr. Steve Larson of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Kerry Link of Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Dr. Martin Pomper of John Hopkins.