March 1, 2006
Question-and-Answer Session Reveals Study Commissioned to Determine Importance of Nuclear Medicine Research
RESTON, Va.—Details of a $743,000 Department of Energy/National Institutes of Health study to determine the importance of nuclear medicine research came to light during an educational briefing called to examine “The Future of Medical Imaging: Transforming Health Care.”
SNM President Peter S. Conti, M.D., Ph.D., queried Elias Zerhouni, NIH director, during the question-and-answer session at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., about the $23 million that was cut in funding in DOE’s fiscal year 2006 budget, effectively eliminating all money for basic nuclear medicine and molecular imaging research. In response, Zerhouni said that the National Academies will perform a “state-of-the-science” review of nuclear medicine, a multidisciplinary science and medical specialty that uses radiopharmaceutical agents and radiation-detection instruments for the diagnosis and treatment of disease and for biomedical research.
“I was able to publicly raise the issue of nuclear medicine research funding directly with the NIH director, and the proposed study will provide the opportunity to validate the importance of basic nuclear medicine research,” said Conti, a professor of radiology, clinical pharmacy and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Speaking for the society, with its more than 16,000 physician, technologist and scientist members, Conti said, “Nuclear medicine research has a proven record of leading to improvements—from bench to bedside—in the diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening cancer, heart and other diseases that affect millions each year.” Basic molecular imaging/nuclear medicine research has been funded by the DOE since biomedical research was initially included in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (the Atomic Energy Commission was the DOE’s predecessor). DOE-funded medical and scientific advances include the Anger gamma camera; PET, the driving force of modern molecular and nuclear imaging; 18F-FDG, which promotes metabolic imaging; and the 99mMo/99m Tc generator. Conti indicated that SNM will fight to restore funding for basic research in the FY 2007 budget and will explore ways to continue existing programs through supplemental funding, reprogramming or other mechanisms to cover the gap created by this Congressional action.
Fifteen experts will be appointed to carry out the review over a one-year period. The National Academies—advisers to the nation on medicine, science and engineering—will provide findings and recommendations on these issues: future needs for radiopharmaceutical development for the diagnosis and treatment of disease; future needs for computational and instrument development for more precise localization of radiotracers in normal and aberrant cell physiologies; national impediments to the efficient entry of promising new radiopharmaceutical compounds into clinical feasibility studies and strategies to overcome them; and impacts of shortages of isotopes and highly trained radiochemists on nuclear medicine research and short- and long-term strategies to alleviate these shortages, should they exist.
The review experts will solicit briefings from several quarters: from DOE, NIH, the Office of Management and Budget and congressional staff on the study charge and expectations for the final report; from subject matter experts on nuclear medicine research trends, needs and opportunities, isotope production and shortages trained personnel; from DOE staff and selected investigators on the Medical Applications and Measurement Science program; and from NIH staff and selected investigators on radiotracer and radiopharmaceutical needs for research and clinical practice.
The Jan. 31 briefing session was sponsored by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, in collaboration with the Academy of Radiology Research and Research!America. Besides Zerhouni, speakers included James E. Davis, board chair, diagnostic imaging and therapy systems division, NEMA, and Roderic I. Pettigrew, director of National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
SNM is an international scientific and professional organization of more than 16,000 members dedicated to promoting the science, technology and practical applications of molecular and nuclear imaging to diagnose, manage and treat diseases in women, men and children. Founded more than 50 years ago, SNM continues to train physicians, technologists, scientists, physicists, chemists and radiopharmacists in state-of-the-art imaging procedures and advances; provide essential resources for health care practitioners and patients; publish the most prominent peer-reviewed resource in the field; sponsor research grants, fellowships and awards; and host the premier annual meeting for medical imaging. SNM members have introduced—and continue to explore—biological and technological innovations in medicine that noninvasively investigate the molecular basis of diseases, benefiting countless generations of patients. SNM is based in Reston, Va.; additional information can be found online at http://www.snm.org.