Advanced cancer scan arrives at Michigan State Radiopharmacy in GR
GRAND RAPIDS — New equipment — the first of its kind in Michigan — coming into service this summer at Michigan State University Radiopharmacy will mean faster cancer diagnoses.
The whole-body PET-CT scanner, housed in the university’s radiopharmacy at the Bold Advanced Medical Future Health Clinic in the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building, is the only device of its kind dedicated to clinical use nationwide.
BAMF Health plans to officially open this summer and begin treating patients with conditions including prostate cancer and neuroendocrine cancer.
The scanner is up to 40 times faster than normal CT or PET scanners, according to Mark DeLano, division of radiology and biomedical director of the MSU College of Human Medicine. It has increased sensitivity, he added, requiring lower doses of radiation during scans and allowing earlier detection of disease.
“We’re going to learn things about drug distributions and where the cancers are that we wouldn’t know otherwise,” DeLano said.
He expects this “major breakthrough in PET/CT scanner technology” to eventually lead to better therapeutic guidance for all cancers.
The machine costs between $15 million and $20 million and can complete its scans in a minute, compared to typical PET or CT scans which can take 20 to 45 minutes. The new machine is able to detect signs of cancer as small as 2 millimeters, compared to 7 to 10 millimeters, or about 1 centimeter, for a traditional scanner.
The machine is also capable of performing larger scans than traditional devices.
A traditional scan can only cover 20 to 30 centimeters, but the new machine is capable of scanning 194 centimeters, meaning a single scan for people up to around 6ft 5in tall.
The scanner is also safe to use with children. A typical PET and CT scan puts children at risk of radiation, according to Anthony Chang, CEO and founder of BAMF Health, but with the new machine, radiation doses can be reduced.
One of the scanner’s capabilities is the ability to track drugs through the body, showing doctors and researchers where the drugs go once introduced into the patient. Doctors can also inject radioactive drugs, called tracers, which allow them to see blood flow in real time as the tracer moves throughout the body.
The treatment of metastatic prostate cancer and metastatic neuroendocrine cancer will be BAMF Health’s primary focus, said Brandon Mancini, medical director of BAMF Health Grand Rapids. For both of these diagnoses, patients will undergo a PET scan with the new scanner to confirm the diagnosis and select the appropriate treatment.
“To have the best PET scan in the world, to be able to do it with the resolution that we’re talking about, the decreased radiation dose and the speed of time, that’s going to allow us to get the most accurate information and therefore treat patients the absolute best,” he said.
Patients will receive more personalized care, officials said. When they go to the clinic for a CT scan, Mancini said, they won’t get the same dose of radiation as all the other patients. Instead, doctors will tailor each person’s radiation based on information gathered during the first PET scan.
“We also want to be the world leader in the practice of this theranostic treatment and to do that you need the best technology that also allows many patients to be able to go through the clinic,” he said. “It contributes to an incredible experience, it contributes to our opportunity to help hundreds and hundreds and thousands of patients in a very short time and positions us to perform small and large scale clinical trials and expand use beyond just prostate cancer and neuroendocrine cancer.
“We are really trying to achieve precision medicine based on intelligence, instead of a one-size-fits-all kind of method,” Chang added. “We collect the right information using (artificial intelligence) to transform it into useful intelligence and use this intelligence to treat the patient.”
The clinic will use two cyclotrons, or particle accelerators, to make radiopharmaceuticals and isotopes, which are the radioactive part of the tracers that doctors will inject into patients.
Doug Meijer and the Meijer Foundation in 2019 provided $19.5 million to the College of Human Medicine to support radiopharmacy, including cyclotrons and PET scanners.
“It will be a truly remarkable facility that is truly made possible by the Meijer family,” Delano said. “It’s a really exciting time to be in medicine at Michigan State.”