Peter Mac’s Centre for Cancer Imaging has celebrated its 100,000th PET scan, after more than 20 years at the forefront of cancer diagnostics and treatment. This significant milestone is a testament to the vision, dedication and perseverance of the Centre’s staff.

Centre for Cancer Imaging staff in 2017

The first PET scan was performed in Peter Mac’s PET Centre back in September 1996. Just one year later they averaged three patients a day, with one scanner and three dedicated staff members.

Today the Centre for Cancer Imaging performs 40 scans per day with four scanners and thirteen rostered staff.

PET (positron emission tomography) uses small amounts of a radioactive solution (radiotracer) to visualise organs and tissues within the body. Radiotracers can also be taken up by cancer cells, allowing specialists to look within tumours and decide what type of treatment might be most suitable and assess whether or not a treatment is working.

In 1996 the small but dedicated group of experts, led by Prof Rod Hicks and David Binns, believed that the technology had the potential to change the way we visualised and thought about cancer.

But even they could not have predicted how important this procedure would become to current-day cancer management.

“When we started the program in 1996 no-one, including me, was sure whether PET would ever be a routine diagnostic tool in oncology,” reflects Prof Hicks, who remains the Director of Peter Mac’s Centre for Cancer Imaging.

“Now, 100,000 scans later, no-one doubts its role”.

For many cancer types PET scans have revolutionised the way tumours are monitored, and are instrumental in helping doctors select, plan and track the effects of cancer treatments.

Prof Kailash Narayan, Chair of Peter Mac’s gynae-oncology service, has seen first-hand the benefits of PET scans for the management of gynaecological cancers.

 “PET scanning allowed us to stage patients non-invasively. It helped us detect asymptomatic systemic disease and prevented us from giving futile but toxic radical chemoradiotherapy,” says Prof Narayan.

“The application of PET at Peter Mac has contributed significantly towards better staging, management, follow-up and recurrent cases of gynaecological cancers.”

Through their research efforts in molecular imaging, the Centre has led the world in advancing the use of PET in the practice of oncology.

“Because of PET scans the landscape for many common cancers has been altered completely, allowing appropriate personalisation of treatment with huge benefits for patients,” says Prof Michael MacManus, Associate Research Director of Peter Mac’s Department of Radiation Oncology, who was involved in seminal research evaluating the role of PET in lung cancer that has influenced global guidelines.

“Peter Mac has played a key role in this imaging revolution and will continue to do so into the future.”

The Centre’s research activity remains a major focus moving forward.

“Our research has been formative in getting many indications funded in both Australia and internationally,” says Prof Hicks.

“Still, there remain a significant number of indications that we have found PET to be equally or even more useful that remain unfunded.”

David Binns, who is now the Chief Nuclear Technologist in the Centre, says that the success of Peter Mac’s PET program is due largely to the dedicated and passionate staff that have been instrumental in growing the facility.

“I want to recognise the hard working staff that over the years have helped to achieve this 100,000 scan milestone”, says David.

“The huge impact this test has had on our patients and their clinical management cannot be overestimated.”

Peter Mac’s Centre for Cancer Imaging currently has 4 PET/CT scanners doing over 9000 studies per year, integrating the use of 21 different PET tracers.