[News-releases] Status of PET Imaging for Cancer Across Canada

Tim Meyer tmeyer at triumf.ca
Mon Feb 27 07:45:22 PST 2012

News Release | For Immediate Release | Monday, February 27, 2012, 9:30 a.m.

Report finds substantial variation in and opportunity for uptake of new

(Vancouver, BC) – Cancer is a growing challenge to Canadians and an
increasing burden on healthcare budgets.  A ground-breaking report released
today suggests that access to, and utilization of, leading-edge
medical-imaging technology for the diagnosis, staging, and monitoring of
cancer treatment varies widely from province to province, putting cancer
patients in some areas at a distinct disadvantage.

The technology, called Positron Emission Tomography, is often coupled with
Computerized Tomography (CT) and is known as PET/CT imaging.  PET imaging is
already widely used and integral to cancer care in most developed nations,
and increased utilization of this technology could provide more
clinically-effective and cost-effective treatment for cancer patients in
Canada.  A nationally coordinated strategy to take up this technology and
standardize its use could bring Canada back to the forefront of global
cancer care. 

The Use of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) for Cancer Care Across Canada:
Time for a National Strategy was prepared for TRIUMF and AAPS, Inc. by
independent medical-research consultant and well-known writer, Susan D.
Martinuk.  According to Martinuk, “PET is revolutionizing clinical cancer
care in the United States and Europe, yet many Canadian doctors and policy
officials continue to see PET as experimental and unproven technology.
Cancer patients can suffer because of this reluctance.” She reports that she
was surprised at the variability among provinces in the utilization of, and
access to, this key diagnostic technology. 

One exception to the Canadian story is Quebec---where there is a network of
12 clinical PET scanners and PET imaging serves as the gateway to cancer
treatment since patients are referred for a PET scan as soon as cancer is
suspected.  Some provinces have no PET scanners (e.g., Saskatchewan), while
others have adequate equipment but restrict access (e.g., Ontario).  In
British Columbia, PET scanners are overwhelmed by patient volume.

Studies show that PET imaging is clinically effective; it can change the
planned treatment regime of a patient in 36.5% – 50% of cases. Based on
this, there is an implication that Quebec cancer patients will experience a
very different standard of cancer management than their counterparts in
other provinces.  Of course, other factors beyond PET imaging contribute to
overall success in managing cancer. 

The power of this non-invasive, nuclear imaging technology is that it can
detect changes in the biological function of cells before they undergo the
anatomical changes that are typically identified by other diagnostic
modalities like CT. This feature makes PET uniquely capable of detecting
cancer at an early stage, before a mass is formed, and thus has positive
implications for detecting, staging and restaging of cancer patients. PET is
also critical to early determination of the efficacy of cancer treatment
regimes. Rather than waiting until the end of a trial to determine if
chemotherapy is working, a scan early in the chemotherapy regime can show if
the treatment is effective or if it should be changed. This not only
improves the probability of a cure, but also results in the most appropriate
use of scarce healthcare resources. 

Martinuk compiled the report by interviewing nuclear-medicine leaders within
each province and collecting data about the deployment and utilization of
PET-based technology for clinical oncology.  She identifies key constraints
that currently stand in the way of cancer patients having ready access to
PET.  They include Canada’s unique geography and population density,
equipment and operating costs, a limited availability of FDG (the active
component of PET), and the lack of national policies, protocols, and
indications.  In particular, it was noted that a lack education and a low
awareness of PET were evident among the public, cancer patients, and medical

Bu the report also identifies the key opportunities that exist for Canada to
seize the moment and make PET a part of the normal standard of care for
cancer patients. They include the development of several national
initiatives to advance and fully deploy PET-based imaging technologies for
effective diagnosis and managed-treatment of cancer, a national education
campaign, and plans to increase the availability of FDG.

Nigel Lockyer, director of TRIUMF, commented, “Canada is a world leader in
health science and technology.  Together, our provincial health authorities
have the expertise and the talent to give Canadians everywhere confidence
that they are getting the best treatment available to detect, monitor, and
control their cancer.” 

Martinuk added, “This report is not the last word; it’s the start of
something.  Our intention is to move the conversation forward by engaging
the provincial health authorities, the practitioners, and the patients.” 


Timothy I. Meyer, Ph.D.
Head, Strategic Planning & Communications
TRIUMF -- Accelerating Science for Canada |
    Un accélérateur de la démarche scientifique canadienne
4004 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 2A3  CANADA
Tel: 604-222-7674
Fax: 604-222-3791
Cell: 650-464-8955
E-mail: tmeyer at triumf.ca
WWW: http://www.triumf.ca

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