April 7, 1997
Media Contact: Marc Kusinitz
Phone: (410) 955-8665
E-mail: mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu MEMORANDUM

To: Writers, Editors, Producers

From: Marc Kusinitz

Date: April 7, 1997

Subject: Imaging technique can prevent most fruitless cancer surgery

Many cancer operations can be avoided by using two forms of computed tomography because they can show which patients are better off treated with radiation or chemotherapy according to a Johns Hopkins physician.

"The technique could save millions of dollars each year by directing patients to more appropriate forms of care," says Henry Wagner, M.D., professor of medicine and director of nuclear medicine and radiation health sciences. "For example, surgery could be avoided in more than half of the patients with small cell lung cancer," he says.

Wagner reviewed several studies that use single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), which is already available in about 3,500 centers in the United States, and reports it can be modified easily for determining the spread of cancer from the primary site. Patients whose cancer has spread extensively wouldn't benefit from surgery, he says. Instead, they would better benefit from radiation or chemotherapy. He cites many cases in which both SPECT and another technique, positron emission tomography (PET), were used successfully to do this.

The potential role of PET and SPECT in reducing the costs of cancer treatment will be among the topics presented during a three-day course, "Nuclear Oncology: From Genotype to Patient Care," April 7-9, 1997, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Peter E.Valk, M.D., medical director of the Northern California PET Imaging Center (Sacramento, Calif.), will make his presentation, "Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Nuclear Oncology," on Wednesday, April 8 at 11:15 a.m.

Radioactively tagged sugar is used to measure both the amount of blood flowing into different organs of the body and the rate at which the sugar is metabolized. Bloodflow increases in organs whose cells are very active. 18-F-FDG, a radioactively tagged sugar, is injected into the patient. Because cancer cells divide quickly and use up the sugar rapidly, the radioactive signal concentrates in cancer tissue. A new modification in SPECT allows it to capture positrons--subatomic particles released from 18-F-FDG, which tends to accumulate in cancerous tissue.

If you would like to attend any part of this conference, please contact me at (410) 955-8665.


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