PET/MR scanner goes live in Edmonton
June 7, 2018
EDMONTON – The Cross Cancer Clinic’s new PET-MR scanner – the first in Western Canada – will give physicians and scientists a better picture of how diseases and treatments are working in the human body.
“It is truly the defining piece of equipment for functional imaging,” said Dr. Sandy McEwan (pictured), project lead and a professor of oncology in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.
“It takes an image from being a picture to being a biomarker and will start to give clinicians the information they need to provide personalized treatment. That is huge. It will help move us further towards ensuring that the patient gets the right treatment at the right time in the right dose.”
The new hybrid imaging scanner, which combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), represents a major leap forward in imaging and diagnostic capabilities, allowing doctors to obtain accurate information about the activity and location of tumours.
PET imaging, for its part, is able to detect very small tumours, but it relies on a technology like MR so that clinicians can position the lesions against a map of the body. MR, in this case, acts like a GPS, with the PET system showing tumours and other phenomena on the map.
PET-MR has significant applications in the fields of oncology, neurology and cardiology, and produces some of the most highly detailed pictures of the inside of the body currently available.
MRI scans by themselves use a magnetic field to produce images of the internal structures of the body. PET scans use radioactive tracers to help healthcare providers see how well a person’s organs and tissues are working.
Previously, PET and MRI were considered incompatible for simultaneous scanning due to interference between the two technologies. Through the new PET-MR scanner, each can now be used concurrently, giving scientists a far more comprehensive image.
According to Dr. McEwan, the advanced capabilities will allow scientists not only to better define tumours in patients, but also to understand the biology and biochemistry underlying them.
The $17-million project is co-led by the U of A’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Department of Oncology. It is supported by funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Government of Alberta, Alberta Cancer Foundation, University Hospital Foundation and University of Alberta. Space for the facility is provided by Alberta Health Services.
Although the PET/MR will be used mainly for research, there will be early contributions to patient care through improved diagnosis and treatment planning for patients with neuroendocrine tumours and prostate cancer.