Converting Energy to Medical Progress

Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

Washington University has explored innovative ways to use radionuclides in medicine since the early 1930s. Supported by BER for many decades, the nuclear medicine research group here has made important contributions to the development of PET imaging. Today, it's at the forefront of developing new organic carrier molecules and a new class of PET radiopharmaceuticals based on metal radionuclides (e.g., copper-64, gallium-68, titanium-45).

PET imaging techniques developed here can help identify which patients with breast cancer will respond to tamoxifen hormone therapy. In some patients, tamoxifen treats breast cancer as effectively as standard chemotherapy with fewer side effects. However, doctors need better methods to determine which patients will respond to tamoxifen.

Breast Cancer
Pre-tamoxifen Therapy Post-tamoxifen Therapy
Pre-tamoxifen Therapy Post-tamoxifen Therapy

These PET images were obtained from a breast cancer patient before tamoxifen therapy and about a week after starting tamoxifen therapy. In the posttamoxifen scan, the bright spot (called a "tamoxifen metabolic flare") indicates that this patient will likely respond well to tamoxifen.

BER scientists at Washington University have also developed a radiopharmaceutical, fluorine-18 fluoroestradiol (FES), that targets estrogen receptors on breast tumors. The presence or absence of abundant estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells can help doctors select the most appropriate chemotherapy for these patients.

For some cancer patients who need chemotherapy,multi-drug resistance poses a serious problem. BER researchers here have developed radiopharmaceuticals that contribute to our current understanding of the molecular and genetic mechanisms that govern the ability of cancerous tissues to resist drug effects. This work may lead to future techniques to overcome multi-drug resistance.

Next: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Table of Contents * About BER * Many Patients * How Does It Work? * BER Medical * Future Healthcare * BNL * LBNL * ORNL * Sloan-Kettering * UCLA * Washington Univ. * Univ. of Michigan * 50-Years * Credits

Published April 2001

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