A clinical PET-CT scanner (Siemens Biograph-40) was installed by Newcastle University in 2007. The scanner is temporarily located in the Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre on the Campus for Ageing and Vitality (Newcastle General Hospital site). A support building has been provided for the dispensing of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) tracers and injection of patients.
The PET Centre takes advantage of close co-operation between Newcastle University and NHS, notably the Regional Medical Physics Department and the Northern Centre for Cancer Care.
PET imaging is a widely accepted method for cancer diagnosis. Patients are given an injection containing a very short-lived radioactive form of glucose (18F labelled fluoro-deoxyglucose or FDG). The patient then rests while the FDG metabolises in the body. We exploit the tendency of cancer cells to use glucose more than normal such that the PET images help to show the location and size of tumours.
Although the ‘molecular images’ of FDG uptake are very sensitive, they do not give any detail of anatomy. This is done by combining with X-ray computed tomography (CT). The PET-CT scanner is simply two imaging machines joined together, with a single bed used to move the patient between them.
The Newcastle PET-CT scanner is primarily for academic and commercial research applications. Studies have so far involved both cancer research and brain imaging for research into Parkinson's and Alzheimers diseases.
Key areas of interest are:
Within the next few years, a wider range of PET tracers will become available. These will provide even more specific tools to investigate a broad range of diseases and evaluate whether new drugs are hitting the targets they have been so carefully designed for.