Diagnostic imaging  

Combined PET/CT scanner from GE brings promise of earlier disease detection

5 July 2005

Toronto, Canada. GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company, has introduced the Discovery STE, a new molecular imaging system designed to help doctors detect, diagnose and monitor treatment of cancer and other diseases, including heart disease and neurological disease, more accurately and earlier in the disease process.

The Discovery STE combines the high-speed, high-resolution capabilities of GE's computed tomography (CT) scanner with the metabolic and physiologic capabilities of its industry-leading positron emission tomography (PET) scanner.

Medical Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates integrated PET/CT exams provide extra information beyond that obtained with visually correlated PET and CT in 41% of cases due to its proven pinpoint accuracy in locating disease.

"With PET/CT we're increasing the opportunity of an earlier diagnosis for our patients," said Hadi Moufarrej, general manager of global Functional Imaging at GE Healthcare. "In many cases disease can be successfully treated - if doctors can detect and intervene early. And for patients who've successfully battled cancer, the trick is keeping it at bay. A PET/CT image allows physicians to see cancer earlier, localize and personalize treatment and carefully monitor that treatment. It's the tool of choice for oncology applications today and we're excited to see how it can transform other clinical specialties."

"Unfortunately not all patients have access to this type of advanced imaging technology, but it's important they understand what a difference a PET/CT scan can make in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer - time is critical for cancer patients as cells multiply and spread," said Jacqueline Brunetti, M.D., Directory of Radiology at Holy Name Hospital in New Jersey. "With continuing developments in molecular-targeted cancer therapies, molecular imaging systems are the wave of the future for medical imaging. As data demonstrating the advantages of PET/CT over MRI and CT in early disease detection continue to accumulate, it is reasonable to anticipate that PET/CT imaging systems could become the "first line of defense" in optimization of treatment for cancer patients," said Dr. Brunetti.

Expanding into new clinical areas

While PET/CT is most commonly used for cancer diagnosis and treatment planning, its use is expanding into other areas, including cardiovascular and neurology imaging — which are becoming high demand clinical areas as the population ages and becomes more susceptible to age-related illness and disease.

For cardiovascular imaging, the Discovery platform allows physicians to access essential metabolic and anatomical data including perfusion map at rest and stress, CT angiography and cardiac calcium score. The information made available through the combination system can help physicians accurately diagnose cardiac patients and help eliminate unnecessary invasive procedures.

Marcelo Di Carli M.D., director of Nuclear Medicine/PET at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, is a recognized pioneer in cardiovascular imaging using PET systems. "The PET/CT technology developed by GE Healthcare continues to set the industry standard for diagnosing a variety of cardiovascular diseases," he said. "It's an important tool in for diagnosis and for planning patient management."

In neurology, clinicians have been making strides in earlier detection of neurological diseases using PET/CT technology. Dr. Ed Coleman, vice chair and professor of radiology at Duke University Medical Center and early adopter of GE's PET/CT technology noted, "PET/CT is a great diagnostic tool and the only non-invasive medical tool powerful enough to accurately image and measure the metabolic function of neurological disorders."

The future of medical imaging

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans are both standard imaging tools that physicians use to pinpoint disease states in the body. A PET scan demonstrates the biological function of the body before anatomical changes take place, while the CT scan provides information about the body's anatomy such as size, shape and location. By combining these two scanning technologies, a PET/CT scan enables physicians to more accurately diagnose and identify cancer, heart disease and brain disorders.

According to Moufarrej, images derived from the Discovery platform can be compared to radar images showing weather patterns.

"The PET image shows concentrations of cancer cells in a color spectrum just as weather radar shows varying concentrations of precipitation. The anatomical image generated by the CT scan acts as the 'map' showing doctors precisely where the cancer is located. The Discovery platform combines both of these images and, like television radar, pinpoints activity and location fused into one image," said Moufarrej.

GE has invested more than $160 million and created innovations covered by more than 25 patents in the development of this technology. The company first began its work combining images with the development of the GE Millennium VG Hawkeye in 1999 and then launched the first commercially available PET/CT, Discovery LS, in 2001.

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