Peter Mac’s Professor Rod Hicks, who pioneered the clinical use of PET in cancer treatment, has received the Gold Medal from the International Cancer Imaging Society (ICIS).

The award – which is the Society’s top honour – recognises Prof Hicks’ exceptional contribution to oncological imaging and to international education.

It also recognises Prof Hicks’ outstanding contribution to the ICIS. Prof Hicks became a member in 2002 and since 2013 served as Editor in Chief of the ICIS journal Cancer Imaging.

“This medal has my name on it but it really reflects a lifetime of work here along with many others at Peter Mac to advance the domain of cancer imaging,” says Prof Hicks, who is Director of Peter Mac’s Centre for Cancer Imaging.

 “It shows the many publications and contributions we’ve made to the literature are being recognised internationally, and are changing clinical practice.

“It’s the environment of collaboration, excellence and clinical interaction at Peter Mac that makes this possible and, more important than these accolades, is having a team that will continue to drive this forward.” 

When Prof Hicks joined Peter Mac in 1996, the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) program he founded was one of the first in the world to have a clinical focus. His centre installed the third PET scanner to arrive in Australia, and it was the first solely dedicated to cancer.

PET involves injecting the patient with a liquid “tracer” which, when scanned, reveals alterations in tissue biology which can both localise and characterise cancers. 

The mainstay of PET in cancer evaluation is the tracer “FDG” (fluorodeoxyglucose) which reveals glucose use by cells. Cancers do this more than normal cells, and so tumours become easy to spot.

As the field has advanced, so too has the range of tracers, each with a unique use. In 2018, Peter Mac’s cancer imaging team used 21 different tracers across almost 10,000 scans.

PET is also now the foundation of theranostics – an emerging type of targeted treatment involving therapeutic radioisotopes.

Lutetium PSMA (LuPSMA) - which is showing dramatic trial results in late-stage prostate cancer - is one of many exciting theranostic approaches developed at Peter Mac over the past two decades. 

These theranostic treatments start with a PET scan to ensure cancer cells have the required target.

“We’ve made PET more than just the imaging of glucose,” Prof Hicks says.

“My lab underpins much of the innovation that we have been able to implement in the clinic and I am incredibly privileged to have worked with so many talented scientists.

“It also leverages the wonderful resources of Peter Mac’s Research Division, with which I am incredibly proud to be associated.” 

       

Prof Hicks also thanked the multi-disciplinary team that supported his work – including trial coordinators, statisticians, nuclear medicine technologists, radiochemists and radiopharmacists, medical physicists, imaging specialists and oncology colleagues from all tumour streams. 

The Gold Medal was presented to Prof Hicks at ICIS’ annual meeting in Verona in October. 

After this Prof Hicks travelled to Barcelona to give the plenary lecture - to an audience of more than 3000 - at the European Association of Nuclear Medicine Congress.

Watch a recent interview with Prof Hicks, at the Leiden University Medical Center, in the Netherlands.