May 23, 2008

Sandler lecturer explores PET’s possibilities

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Edward Coleman, M.D., left, talks with Martin Sandler, M.B.Ch.B., center, and Jeremy Kaye, M.D., before delivering last week’s inaugural Sandler Lecture in Radiology and Radiological Sciences. (photo by Neil Brake)

Sandler lecturer explores PET’s possibilities

Nuclear imaging pioneer Edward Coleman, M.D., is on a mission to get others to see what he sees so clearly — the clinical value of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging studies.

Coleman, vice chair of Radiology at Duke University Medical Center, was at Vanderbilt last week to deliver the inaugural Sandler Lecture in Radiology and Radiological Sciences.

In his talk he traced the history of PET's development, its growing range of valuable applications — especially when used in conjunction with computerized tomography (CT) scans — and the ongoing quest for appropriate reimbursement for scanning studies from third-party payers.

While a resident in nuclear medicine at Washington University School of Medicine's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in the 1970s, Coleman performed some of the first studies using PET and demonstrated the potential clinical utility of the fledgling imaging technology.

“You could see early on that it had potential for impacting medical care decisions,” Coleman said.

Coleman has been studying and speaking on that impact ever since. He was the founder and first president of the Institute of Clinical PET and is the immediate past-president of the Academy of Molecular Imaging.

Most recently, he has played a major role in developing and overseeing the National Oncologic PET Registry (NOPR), which is gathering PET/CT study data from centers across the country to present to the Centers for Medicare Services as evidence for national reimbursement guidelines.

Nearly 77,000 patients and 1,700 facilities are registered with NOPR. Early findings indicate that PET/CT scanning — by more accurately pinpointing the location of malignancies and by more quickly determining if treatments are effective — is having a noticeable impact on how clinicians are managing their patients' care.

“It's changed treatment drastically in a third of cases studied,” Coleman said. “Seventy-six percent of physicians taking part said PET/CT would impact future care decisions by eliminating unnecessary treatment and tests.”

The Sandler lecture is named in honor of Martin Sandler, M.B., Ch.B., associate vice chancellor for Hospital Affairs, who served as chair of Radiology and Radiological Sciences from 2000 until assuming his new post in 2006. Prior to that, Sandler served as vice chair of the department for eight years.

“When Martin left the department we thought of several ways to honor his achievements and what he has meant to this department,” said Jeremy Kaye, M.D., who succeeded Sandler as chair of the department. “We decided it would be best to do something enduring, so we established this lectureship.”

Coleman said he was proud to be the first Sandler lecturer.

“People talk about 'triple threats' — those individuals who are skilled as teachers, clinicians and researchers. Well, I've known Martin for several years, and he's one of the few you can legitimately call a 'quadruple threat,' because of his administrative abilities,” Coleman said.