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Population health from the molecular level at SNMMI

por Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | August 08, 2016
From the August 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

From June 11-15, approximately 6,000 health care professionals converged on San Diego for the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) annual meeting. That’s 1,000 more attendees than the show had in 2015. Of course, HealthCare Business News was right there, and what we saw was an event with a singular focus. For all the discussion of PET and SPECT imaging, logistical hurdles and regulatory updates, more than ever, this year’s show was entirely about the patients. The show began with a call to action, backed by a hefty incentive.

At the opening plenary session, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) announced a $2 million prize for the researchers who discover a viable alpha-synuclein PET tracer, which could potentially play a key role in curing Parkinson’s disease. In an accompanying video, Fox told the crowd that although he was aware that money was not their motivation for helping to cure a disease that affects up to 1 million people in the U.S. alone, “it doesn’t hurt,” either. In fact, the prize is a “small expense” for the foundation’s total budget, but a “big step” toward finding a cure, Jamie Eberling, senior associate director of research programs at MJFF, told HCB News.

What’s tau got to do with it?

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As one might expect, Alzheimer’s was another neurological topic of interest at SNMMI. While amyloid build-up has been central to those conversations in recent years, this time around it was tau that took the spotlight. A team of German researchers received the SNMMI Image of the Year Award for providing the first in vivo evidence of a correlation between amyloid, tau aggregation and metabolic activity in Alzheimer’s patients. They measured tau deposits using the novel radiotracer F-18-AV-1451 (F-18-T807), in conjunction with C-11-PiB, to measure amyloid plaques, and F-18-FDG to measure regional neurodegeneration.

“Adding tau imaging may help us now to understand factors leading to the actual onset of neurodegeneration and possibly also help document effective treatment,” Dr. Alexander Drzezga, professor and chair in nuclear medicine at the University of Cologne in Germany and one of the researchers, told HCB News The results suggest, according to Drzezga, that tau pathology could be tightly linked to neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease, and might even be casually involved.

Government update on technetium-99m shortage
While PET imaging dominates academic journal headlines, SNMMI was about real-world utilization and improving care for everyday patients, and the vast majority of imaging exams performed today are with SPECT. An estimated 80 percent of the world’s nuclear medicine, or approximately 70,000 SPECT scans per day, are contingent upon access to technetium 99m (Tc-99m), and as the world’s nuclear reactors stagger closer to retirement, access to the tracer (via its parent isotope, molybdenum-99) has been a major concern for the molecular imaging community.

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