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Molecular Imaging is a rapidly expanding area of medicine

State-of-the-art Molecular Imaging in medicine is synonymous with the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, the most sophisticated nuclear medicine scanner on the market today. PET Scan technology is essential in the diagnosis, staging and treatment planning for critical illness defined as cancer, cardiac and neurological diseases. A second technology called SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) is at the foundation of nuclear medicine when measuring the performance of the heart, at rest and under stress. In the USA and Canada, there are approximately 13,500 SPECT or gamma cameras located mainly in cardiac departments of hospitals or in cardiologists offices. To put that number in perspective there are less than 1,000 PET scanners in the USA and Canada today.

In Canada, SPECT is a reimbursable medical scan while PET is not approved for cardiac, cancer or neurological disease diagnosis across Canada with the exception of Quebec where cancer PET has approval for medical reimbursement.

Critical illness kills 60% of the world’s population. In order to effectively find and treat these critical illnesses, we must view the body at the cellular, molecular or functional level. Only PET and for cardiac functionality specifically, SPECT technologies allow that type of specific analysis.

MRI’s, CAT and/or CT Scans all look at the anatomy. The latter will image a tumour but only a PET will tell an MD what’s going on inside and at what location disease is present in the tumor. Biopsies perform the same function however they are invasive and can be dangerous; PET is non-invasive and has no side effects. SPECT is non-invasive applicable mainly to cardiac examinations.

There were 1.4 million PET Scans performed in the USA and Canada in 2005, of which 100,000 were USA-performed cardiac PET scans. In Canada, only the National Cardiac PET Centre, part of the Ottawa Heart Institute, does 6,000 patients annually mainly using Cardiac PET for diagnosis. The lion’s share (88%) of all PET scans were cancer-related PET Scans.

The standard of care for the diagnosis and treatment planning for cardiac disease is SPECT. There were over 12 million SPECT procedures performed in the USA and Canada in 2005. A SPECT scanner will sell for between $200,000 and $500,000, while a PET and/or PET/CT scanner will sell for between $900,000 and $3.5 million.

SPECT is in virtually every hospital that treats heart-diseased patients, and in many large cardiology practices. Cardiac PET, although the gold standard in working to prevent and reverse coronary artery disease is only available in the top 50 cardiac hospitals in the USA and Japan. PET is not approved for reimbursement in Canada, except in Quebec where PET Scans for certain specific cancers and no cardiac studies have been recently approved.

 
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