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SNM applauds NAS study showing need to restore federal nuclear medicine research funding

RESTON, Va. -- Based on the results of a recent National Academy of Sciences report, federal funding for basic molecular imaging/nuclear medicine research should be restored to the U.S. Department of Energy, says SNM, the worlds largest society for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine professionals.

Funded by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, the 13-month, $700,000 report was prompted by a $23 million cut in funding from the DOE Office of Sciences fiscal year 2006 budget, which effectively eliminated most money for basic nuclear medicine and molecular imaging research. The DOE has funded basic molecular imaging/nuclear medicine research since biomedical research was initially included in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. This research has lead to the introduction of many life-saving technologies over the years. Advancing Nuclear Medicine Through Innovation recommends that the federal government enhance its commitment to nuclear medicine research since expanded use of nuclear medicine techniques has the potential to accelerate, simplify and reduce the costs of developing and delivering improved health care and could facilitate the implementation of personalized medicine.

The loss of funding for nuclear medicine research in the U.S. Department of Energy budget has been a tremendous blow to -- most importantly -- our current and future patients and our field, said SNM President Alexander J. McEwan, who represents 16,000 physicians, technologists and scientists. This report confirms that funding for this nations basic research program must be restored or future life-saving diagnostic and treatment procedures could be lost, he added.

If funding is not restored in the 2008 fiscal year, it will be detrimental to researchers and their labs. This is the only federal government research money dedicated to basic nuclear medicine research, and there are no plans to move this research to another federal agency, explained Peter S. Conti, chair of SNMs Government Relations Committee. Our country needs to invest in the basic scientific research necessary to develop future breakthroughs in nuclear medicine imaging and therapy that will allow for earlier detection and treatment of cancer and other serious illnesses, he noted.

Briefly, the NAS report

  • calls for enhanced federal commitment to nuclear medicine research,

  • recommends that regulatory requirementsfor toxicology and current good manufacturing practices facilitiesbe clarified and simplified,

  • notes that domestic medical radionuclide production should be improved,

  • suggests that DOE and NIH convene expert panels to identify critical national needs for training nuclear medicine scientists and

  • encourages interdisciplinary collaboration.

DOE-supported high-risk/high-reward nuclear medicine research has been directed at the fundamental and technological aspects of biomedical imaging and radiotherapy that make technological breakthroughs possible, said SNM President-Elect Robert W. Atcher, University of New Mexico/Los Alamos National Laboratory professor of pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy at the University of New Mexico and a former DOE grant recipient. Atchers ongoing research project -- to explore the use of radioactive isotopes to kill cancer cells and reduce the radiation dose to normal tissues -- was zeroed out in 2006 with the loss of $400,000 in federal funds. We are potentially losing the ability to treat some very resistant cancers with this new technology because we dont have the funding to continue the research on our idea. We needed at least two more years of funding to demonstrate the biologic effectiveness of our approach before the National Institutes of Health would consider funding the work, he explained.

Molecular imaging/nuclear medicine is a multidisciplinary science and medical specialty that uses radiopharmaceutical agents and radiation-detection instruments for the diagnosis and treatment of disease and for biomedical research. Annually, more than 20 million men, women and children need noninvasive molecular/nuclear medicine procedures. These safe, cost-effective procedures include positron emission tomography (PET) scans to diagnose and monitor treatment of cancer, cardiac stress tests to analyze heart function, bone scans for orthopedic injuries and lung scans for blood clots.


Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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