Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that utilizes small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of diseases such as cancers, heart disease, neurological disorders, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and other anomalies within the body. The first single-plane positron emission tomography (PET) scanner was launched in 1961 and the first single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) camera was introduced in 1963 whereas, the first hybrid nuclear modalities were introduced in 1990s. But in recent years there is a huge advancement in the field of nuclear medicine. In February 2018, FDA cleared the RadioGenix System from NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes for the production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the parent isotope to Tc-99m. Prior to this approval, Tc-99m could only be produced at very few facilities globally, none of which reside in the US. Tc-99m is the most widely used imaging agent in the world due to its versatility and it is used in nearly 80 percent of nuclear diagnostic imaging procedures, or about 40,000 medical procedures in the US every day. FDA in 2008 has classified diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals as “supplies” rather than “drugs,” which means reimbursement for the agents is rolled into the larger imaging procedure payment.
There is a total of 10 FDA-approved PET imaging agents, and since 2012, six of them have been approved. Till today there is no cure for many neuropsychiatric diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but accurate diagnosis is necessary to manage patient care. Recently, amyloid PET imaging has become available in clinical settings in many countries and this technique detects one of the fundamental pathological processes that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This technology provides a more exhaustive picture than the general radiotracers used in the past. The clinical value of this technology is currently being evaluated through multi-centre trials. Even other new PET imaging technologies, such as tau imaging and inflammation imaging, are being evaluated by the research community for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Nuclear medicine is going to play an important role in diagnosing various diseases in the coming years.
– Arpitha Shetty,