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British Columbia acquires PET/CT technology

VANCOUVER – Cancer patients in B.C. will benefit from a major advance in cancer care and treatment with the opening of the province’s first publicly funded PET/CT scanner.

This technology was made possible, in part, through a $5.1 million emerging-technology investment in PET from the Government of B.C. and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Located at the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Centre, the PET/CT scanner will serve patients from across the province. During the initial start-up phase, the BC Cancer Agency is using the technology for patients with non-small cell lung cancer and lymphoma. As the clinical and operational capacity grows, the BC Cancer Agency’s Provincial Tumour Groups will review the types of eligible patients.

“B.C. has some of the best cancer outcomes in Canada, and this facility will further enhance that success,” said health minister George Abbott. “Congratulations to all those who have been involved in making the new Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging a reality for cancer patients in British Columbia.”

The PET (positron emission tomography) system is a non-invasive, whole-body imaging technique. When combined with computed tomography (CT), it allows physicians to more accurately diagnose and manage disease, particularly cancer. PET represents a remarkable advance in the ability to track the progress of disease in the body.

The PET/CT scanner is a flagship for the new Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging, at the BC Cancer Agency, part of the Provincial Health Services Authority. The centre was developed to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment planning, to build new research programs, to apply advances in imaging to cancer treatment, and to collaborate in national and international programs.

“The establishment of the PET centre not only provides us with state-of-the-art imaging for optimal cancer patient management, it positions us to shape the evolving future of imaging at the genomic level,” said Dr. Simon Sutcliffe, president, BC Cancer Agency. “This imaging modality enables us to monitor the biology of cancer and its response to therapy, as opposed to merely its size, position and anatomical relationship.”

Both patients and healthcare professionals will benefit from the availability of PET/CT. It gives patients a single, highly effective test that shows the presence and progress of disease, and monitors how well they are responding to treatment. For healthcare providers, PET/CT is a tool that enhances their ability to diagnose disease and plan treatment for the most appropriate and effective therapy.

“This is a commitment by the PHSA and the ministry to the continued well-being of one of Canada’s most effective cancer care and control programs,” said Lynda Cranston, president and CEO of the Provincial Health Services Authority. “Strategic investments like this one help ensure British Columbians will continue to receive excellent care.”

The opening of the new PET/CT Scanner Facility marks the completion of the first phase in the development of the Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging.

The next steps are:

• Phase 2: Construction of a cyclotron facility and radiopharmaceutical lab, used to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals for both clinical and research use;

• Phase 3: Acquisition of a research PET/CT scanner, plus a small animal PET scanner, to support the BC Cancer Agency’s research program and contribute to its world-class achievements.

The ability to provide PET imaging for diagnostic and research purposes is an important tool in the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging, bringing effective, cutting-edge technology to the residents of B.C.

How PET works: Malignant cells are metabolically active, and use sugar as an energy source. PET takes a special type of sugar, attaches a radioactive component (18 F-Fluorodeoxyglucose, or 18 F-FDG) to it, and injects it into the patient. The PET scanner can detect changes at the cellular level by monitoring the amount of FDG absorbed by cells. This allows physicians to tell where normal and abnormal metabolic activity is happening in the body. Combining this information with CT, a physician is able to locate the cells and determine if an abnormality is cancerous.