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Advanced 'Hybrid' PET/CT Scanner Improves Cancer Treatment

New York City, NY (September 14, 2006) — A new-generation, highly advanced combination PET/CT scanning device now available at Montefiore Medical Center dramatically improves the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, while being more comfortable for patients than older equipment.

The device merges in one "open" machine two noninvasive imaging technologies.  PET, or positron emission tomography, uses tracer substances to detect areas of elevated glucose metabolism typical of tumor cells.  CT, or computerized tomography, uses X-rays to reveal internal anatomical structure. 

While both PET and CT scans are routinely used in evaluating cancer, the fusion of the two types of scans offers considerable advantages over the two technologies alone.

"This hybrid PET/CT scanner provides a triple bonus.  First, it incorporates advances in both PET and CT technologies, and second, it merges these enhancements into one fused, three-dimensional image with remarkable clarity.  That combined image shows us areas of metabolic changes in their precise anatomical context, sharpening our diagnostic and treatment capabilities," said David Milstein, MD, vice chair of nuclear medicine.

The new scanner also makes the imaging procedure far more comfortable for patients.  "The procedure takes only 12 minutes, compared to 45 minutes with earlier versions of the PET/CT scanner — an important advantage because the patient must lie completely still the whole time," Dr. Milstein said.

"Patients like the open design of the hybrid scanner, where, lying on a bench, they pass through two rings, one for the CT and one for the PET, with space in between.  The standard tunnel-shaped scanners can be claustrophobic," he added.

At Montefiore, the new PET/CT scanner, called GEMINI TF, from Philips Medical Systems, is being used in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of a variety of cancers.

"This latest PET/CT scanner is far more precise in localizing a cancer than PET scans and CT scans alone.  The clarity of the fused, three-dimensional images helps me identify exactly where a tumor is in a muscle, gland, or other structure in the neck, and allows me to refine my surgical approach," said surgeon Richard Smith, MD, director of Montefiore's Head and Neck Service.

In planning radiation treatment, Shalom Kalnicki, MD, chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, said that the scanner is invaluable.  For example, in small areas showing elevated metabolism, suggesting cancer, the combination PET/CT scanner allows an exact anatomical correlation so that normal physiological tissues with higher metabolic activity (e.g., brain, liver, blood vessels) can be distinguished from tumor cells.

"With the two scans combined, the patient's anatomical measurements and tissue densities are available to the computer so that the metabolic calculation for the PET scan is precise," Dr. Kalnicki said.