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Let’s Go Nuclear: Featuring Nuclear Medicine

By: Arushi Neravetla

Josh Mailman has lived with neuroendocrine cancer for 15 years. After his initial diagnosis, he made a goal to educate himself about his disease. Soon, he attended a local conference about nuclear medicine, which was an essential component to his diagnosis of cancer. After gathering information, he traveled to Europe to investigate nuclear medicine therapy. From his perspective, “It not only changed the path of [his] disease, but it also changed [treatment] for tens of thousands of those that have [came] after [him] since the approval of nuclear medical drugs in Europe and the United States in 2017–2018.”

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a specialized area in Radiology that uses small radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals, to examine both organ and structure. This branch of radiology is used to help diagnose and treat the very early progression of disease, such as thyroid cancer. In addition, X-rays which pass through soft tissues such as muscles or blood vessels can be difficult to trace on a standard X-ray machine, unless a contrast agent is used. X-rays help with visualization of organs and tissue, which is significant in studying human anatomy.

  1. First, a tiny amount of radioactive substance is used during the procedure, which is called radionuclide, which is absorbed by body tissue.

  2. Then, researchers use various types of radionuclides such as technetium, thallium, gallium, iodine, and xenon.

  3. In addition, radiation is detected by a radiation detector and is called a gamma camera.

  4. From the gamma camera, digital signals are produced and stored to a computer, which detects high radiation.

  5. As a result, measuring the radiation during a nuclear scan can assess and diagnose various conditions such as tumors, organ enlargement, and can identity which infected part is clearly represented on the scanning device.

Figure 1: An example of CT Brain Imaging Scan

Treatment for Neuroendocrine:

Nuclear medicine as a treatment for neuroendocrine tumors has been used in many countries. This treatment also delivers radiation directly to the tumor to kill cancer cells and PRRT (Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy) targets these receptors with radi

opeptides. In addition, the benefits for patients undergoing PPRT have shown an improvement of quality of life, relieve symptoms, decrease tumor size, and increase survival rate. However, the use of nuclear medicine has side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

Figure 2: Procedure of PRRT Step-by-Step Process

The Future Awaits as We Jump Into PET/CT Imaging:

In clinical care, several features in CT imaging have made it a highly sensitive detector which blocks to identify small lesions in the body. Kuangyu Shi, PhD, head of the Artificial Intelligence and Translational Theranostics Lab in the department of Nuclear Medicine, says how nuclear imaging will help develop parametric imaging algorithms to provide insightful quantitative data. Furthermore, this data also enables the creation of new drugs and to acquire dynamic images over the body. Researchers noted how it plays a critical role and the scanning systems have proven to be useful for patients in cancer treatment. Hence, Shi and his scientists are exploring opportunities for new ways to broaden techniques in nuclear imaging for patients.

Figure 3: A patient’s clinical images were scanned by PET imaging.

Thanks for reading, and please check back shortly for more articles!


  1. “A Quantum Leap in PET/CT Imaging.” A Quantum Leap in PET/CT Imaging,

  2. “Nuclear Medicine Information.” NETRF, 10 May 2019,

  3. “Patients Spotlight Nuclear Medicine in Prominent Magazine/Website.” SNMMI,

  4. “Nuclear Medicine.” Johns Hopkins Medicine,

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