KETTERING — Highly specialized nuclear medicine physicians and scientists with Kettering Health Network’s neuroscience program are providing patients with early, more precise diagnoses and improved outcomes using state-of-the-art diagnostic positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.
PET produces a three-dimensional image of functional processes in the body. By injecting a radiochemical agent (tracer) into the patient, the PET scan is able to detect unusual molecular activity that may indicate an illness or disease.
“Simply put, we are bags of biochemistry,” said Martin Satter, Ph.D., senior medical physicist at Kettering Medical Center. “Because disease processes are biochemical processes, PET scanning technology allows us to see a disease before it presents itself with traditional imaging like MRI and CT scans. Early detection allows us to treat the disease sooner and to improve the patient’s outcome.”
As a community-based hospital, Kettering Medical Center is unique in that it owns a medical cyclotron used to manufacture PET tracers. The hospital is one of only ten medical facilities in the United States that manufactures and uses novel PET tracers (radioactive chemicals not normally offered in hospitals) for direct clinical use. One of these novel tracers is methionine, an amino acid used to diagnose low-grade tumors.
Kettering also is unique in that it employs highly-trained radiochemists and nuclear medicine physicians who take PET and MRI scans, traditionally diagnostic tools, and fuse them to create a powerfully effective treatment tool. “We work with the surgeon to create the roadmap for successful treatment,” said Arash Kardan, M.D., a nuclear medicine physician at Kettering Medical Center who completed advanced nuclear medicine & PET training at Stanford and Harvard universities. “Kettering Medical Center pioneered combining functional and biochemical information with anatomical information from traditional scans to give the surgeon or radiation oncologist a precise map to develop the best treatment for each patient.”
This diagnostic and clinical approach was recently used to diagnose and treat a patient who was experiencing seizures. A brain MRI showed some irregularities, but it did not indicate a tumor. A PET scan using the novel tracer methionine showed that the area of his brain found to be irregular on an MRI had markedly different biochemical activity, which lead to a diagnosis of a brain tumor.
Kettering’s nuclear medicine team took the diagnostic information and worked with the surgeon to help him determine the best approach to operate on the brain tumor. The patient has fully recovered and says PET saved his life.
“Kettering Medical Center is visionary with this approach,” said Dr. Kardan. “Our charter is integrated patient care. We use technology for patient care, not just diagnostics.”