by which individual diseases arise; superior identification of disease subtypes; and better prediction of an individual patient’s responses to treatment. However, the process of advancing patient care is complex and slow. Expanded use of nuclear medicine techniques has the potential to accelerate, simplify, and reduce the costs of developing and delivering improved health care and could facilitate the implementation of personalized medicine.
Current clinical applications of nuclear medicine include the ability to:
diagnose diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases), and cardiovascular disease in their initial stages, permitting earlier initiation of treatment as well as reduced morbidity and mortality;
non-invasively assess therapeutic response, reducing patients’ exposure to the toxicity of ineffective treatments and allowing alternative treatments to be started earlier; and
provide molecularly targeted treatment of cancer and certain endocrine disorders (e.g., thyroid disease and neuroendocrine tumors).
Emerging opportunities in nuclear medicine include the ability to:
understand the relationship between brain chemistry and behavior (e.g., addictive behavior, eating disorders, depression);
assess the atherosclerotic cardiovascular system;
understand the metabolism and pharmacology of new drugs;
assess the efficacy of new drugs and other forms of treatments, speeding their introduction into clinical practice;
employ targeted radionuclide therapeutics to individualize treatment for cancer patients by tailoring the properties of the targeting vehicle and the radionuclide;
develop new technology platforms (e.g., integrated microfluidic chips and other automated screening technologies) that would accelerate and lower the cost of discovering and validating new molecular imaging probes, biomarkers, and radiotherapeutic agents;
develop higher resolution, more sensitive imaging instruments to detect and quantify disease faster and more accurately;
further develop and exploit hybrid imaging instruments, such as positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI), to improve disease diagnosis and treatment; and
improve radionuclide production, chemistry, and automation to lower the cost and increase the availability of radiopharmaceuticals by inventing a new miniaturized particle accelerator and associated technologies