Device could change how cancer is tracked.

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, was awarded a $15.5 million five-year grant, as part of the part of the National Institutes of Health High-Risk, High-Reward Program, to build the world’s first total-body positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which, they say, could fundamentally change the way cancers are tracked and treated.

Fig. 1 – Experts in biomedical engineering and radiology are working to build a PET scanner that could allow physicians to see inside the entire human body at once.
The EXPLORER project will be led by Simon Cherry, distinguished professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis, and Ramsey Badawi, professor of radiology.

PET scans are widely used to diagnose and track a variety of diseases, including cancer, because they show how organs and tissues are functioning in the body (in contrast to MRI or CT scans, which mostly show anatomy). The EXPLORER project will address the shortcomings of the current scanning technology, which requires more time and exposes the patient to more radiation because scans are done in 20-centimeter segments. (See Figure 1)

Scope of the Project

“The vision of the EXPLORER project is to solve two fundamental limitations of PET as it is currently practiced,” said Cherry. “The first is to allow us to see the entire body all at once. The second huge advantage is that we’re collecting almost all of the available signal, which means we can acquire the images much faster or at a much lower radiation dose. That’s going to have some profound implications for how we use PET scanning in medicine and medical science.”

Cherry and Badawi predict that by seeing the entire body simultaneously, their scanner could drop the radiation dose by a factor of 40 or decrease scanning time from 20 minutes to just 30 seconds. A quicker scan also could reduce the incidence of images blurred by patient movement.

The technology could have implications in diagnostics and treatment, as well as drug development. With wholebody PET, physicians could diagnose a disease and then follow its trajectory in a way never before possible, which could affect how patients are treated. This approach reflects the current trend in medicine to develop systemsbased treatments and more individualized care.

Additionally, pharmaceutical companies could use the scanner to show how drugs and compounds are transported through the body and determine whether a drug is targeting the disease or whether it goes to other organs, where it could cause harmful side effects.

After additional studies, the researchers are hoping their technology will lead to new discoveries of the human body and may even launch a whole diagnostic field.

For more information, visit .