Patients at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will have access to clearer scans, helping to better target their treatments, with the purchase of a new Positron Emission Topography (PET) scanner.

Funding for the multi-million dollar machine was announced by Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley this week as he outlined latest allocations under the Victorian Government's Medical Equipment Replacement Program.

This funding program supports the upgrading of key medical equipment across Victoria’s public hospitals and, in total, 21 metropolitan and regional health services shared in $35 million in this round.

“We’re making sure our busiest hospitals have the vital infrastructure and equipment they need – because Victorians should be able to access quality healthcare, no matter where they live,” Minister Foley says - read more in the Victorian Government’s press release.

Professor Stephen Stuckey, Director of Cancer Imaging at Peter Mac, explains PET scanners play a fundamental role in the detection, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of cancer. At a basic level, PET scans are like an X-ray but instead of revealing broken bone they show if metabolic and biological processes inside the body are going awry.

Patients undergoing a PET scan are first given a “tracer”, which is usually injected. A commonly used tracer fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is a radioactive form of glucose that “lights-up” on a PET scan.

“Because cancer cells use much more glucose than normal cells, FDG can be seen accumulating wherever there is a tumour,” Prof Stuckey says.

Tumours in the brain, prostate, thyroid, lungs and cervix are commonly found on a PET scan.

“A PET scan can show, with pinpoint accuracy, the location of a tumour in tissue or an organ and also indicate if the cancer has spread to other areas,” Prof Stuckey says.

“Not only are PET scans used to detect cancers they help guide treatment decisions, are used to monitor responses to treatment, and to keep watch for cancer recurrence.”

Latest version PET scanners provide more accurate images in less time and with lower doses of radioactive tracers – a win for patients and imaging staff who have an environmental exposure.

Peter Mac’s imaging team recently performed a record 876 PET scans in one month – an average of 42 PET scans per day. The team performs around 10,000 PET scans each year, and this number is rising as clinical applications expand.

In 2021, Peter Mac’s PET service celebrated its 25 year milestone. When our first PET scanner was installed in 1996, it was only the third in Australia and one of only a few in the world focused on assessment of cancer.

Peter Mac's pioneering PET research program has produced a number of novel PET tracers and also radiopharmaceuticals - an emerging form of cancer treatment which is underpinned by PET scanning.

“Access to the very latest PET scanners will ensure Peter Mac remains a world-class centre and pioneer of PET-related research and clinical care,” Prof Stuckey says.


For more information contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.

About Peter Mac

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is a world-leading cancer research, education and treatment centre and Australia’s only public health service solely dedicated to caring for people affected by cancer.