The nuclear option: state-of-the-art molecular imaging
The Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT uses scientific expertise and state-of-the-art technology in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
A patient is made ready for a PET/CT scan
procedures carried out annually
Delivering more than 15,000 procedures every year, The Royal Marsden’s Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT is one of the largest providers of molecular imaging in cancer in the UK.
The department incorporates all aspects of radioisotope imaging. This technique involves the patient being given a tracer – a small, safe dose of a radioactive substance. The radiation emitted is measured by a scanner in order to produce diagnostic images of the body.
In addition, we provide radioisotope therapy for a range of cancers, from the rare (such as endocrine cancers, particularly thyroid and neuroblastoma) to the common (such as prostate cancer). The patient is given a combination of a radioactive element and a drug, which delivers therapeutic levels of radiation directly into the cancer cells.
An expert team
Our service is consultant-led to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate imaging procedure or radioisotope treatment. In many cases, once a patient is referred to the nuclear medicine team, they will be seen the following day.
“The Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT service at The Royal Marsden uses state-of-the-art equipment to provide a wide range of imaging procedures with the support of the onsite radiopharmacy and physics team,” says Marguerite Meintjes, Radioisotope Services Manager. “This team ensures that patients are cared for throughout their journey, making it as smooth as possible.”
Professor Wim Oyen, Consultant in Nuclear Medicine, heads the department and leads a multidisciplinary team of consultants, physicists, pharmacists and chemists with experience in molecular imaging of all types of cancer.
“All of the team is involved in multidisciplinary meetings,” says Professor Oyen. “We discuss imaging results directly with the oncologists and surgeons to ensure a seamless patient pathway.”
PET/CT and SPECT/CT scanners
The department uses leading-edge imaging equipment – including three PET/CT and three SPECT/CT scanners – across both sites. PET is a non-invasive, three-dimensional molecular imaging technique that allows the evaluation of metabolic processes and how cancer disturbs them. We provide a wide range of PET/CT procedures to private patients and produce gallium-68 – the diagnostic radionuclide used in PET/CT – in-house to allow efficient delivery.
“With PET/CT scanning, we can identify metabolically active cancer cells,” says Professor Oyen. “It provides excellent information on the staging of the disease, what would be the best treatment for the individual patient, and the impact of this treatment on the course of the disease.”
In addition, the department houses gamma cameras integrated with CT scanners. This gives us the ability to perform localisation CT with SPECT imaging, which provides superior diagnostic information to SPECT alone.
Looking to the future
A new radiopharmacy is due to open in Sutton this year, enabling us to facilitate more research into new radioactive tracers and translate our findings to patients more quickly. Through this research, we hope to predict the success rates of treatments earlier.
“The care provided by The Royal Marsden is of an incredibly high standard,” says Professor Oyen. “Once the new facilities are up and running, it’s going to be even better. It will enable us to harness the scientific power of the ICR and bring the new tracers we develop in the laboratories directly to the patient.
“The Royal Marsden prides itself on its fast, high-quality service. Our dynamic partnerships and state-of-the-art equipment help us provide a smooth service to those in our care.”