Tag Archives: nuclear imaging


Bone Scanning and Osteoperosis

Here’s a little-known fact: Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. Radiologist Robert Bleakney says the issue is under-reported and under-recognized.scan

Dr. Bleakney specializes in musculoskeletal/ bone radiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and is the head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Joint Department of medical Imaging (JDMI). He uses the technique to assess a bone’s mineral density in order to determine a patient’s fracture risk.

“Bone mineral density or mineralization tells us the strength of the bones,” he says. “You want a higher score. The higher the score, the more dense the bone.”

The scans are based on X rays, similar to a Chest X ray, but use a fraction of the radiation dose, equivalent to a few days of natural background radiation or a transatlantic flight. The patient receives two X-rays of varying energy, usually targeting the spine and the left hip. Those are the areas that best predict fracture risk. Using the scan results, Dr. Bleakney can determine whether a patient has a low, moderate or high risk for subsequent fractures.scan 2From there, doctors can look at appropriate treatment methods. For low-risk patients, lifestyle changes may be all that’s needed. High-risk patients may be offered medications that help strengthen their bones.

While anyone can suffer from the impacts of a fracture, women are often at an increased risk for fractures. Other risk factors include:

  • Being over 65
  • Early menopause
  • Family history of fractures, osteoporosis and past fragility fractures
  • Certain medications: Steroids have been known to decrease bone mineral density and increase fracture risk

You don’t need to  wait for your own scan to think about strengthening your bones and reducing fracture risk. Here are some useful tips:

  • Regular weight-bearing exercise helps stimulate bone growth. Running, walking and weight lifting are all good options.
  • Fall Prevention techniques by strengthening the muscles. This can include physiotherapy
  • Calcium and Vitamin D supplements

Dr. Bleakney says fractures often result in decreased mobility or even death. The economic impact cannot be ignored. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, fractures cost Canadian tax payers over $2 billion dollars annually.

With an aging population, the matter is only certain to gain even more importance. According to Osteoporosis Canada, “Without BMD (bone mineral density) testing, 80% of patients with a history of fractures are not given osteoporosis therapies. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians needlessly fracture each year because their osteoporosis goes undiagnosed and untreated.”


Nuclear Imaging Revolutionizes Breast Cancer Research

Editorial - Breast cancerInnovative nuclear research may soon be able to tell in advance whether breast-cancer patients require specific hormone treatments – a breakthrough that could save a lot of time and money.

Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan, supported by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation  is exploring whether radiopharmaceuticals can identify cancers associated with HER2, a protein that promotes cancer-cell growth.

HER2-positive breast cancers are less responsive than other cancer types to hormone treatment. Drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) and  lapatinib (Tykerb) are effective but costly. Other treatments get used first – and may not work.

The Fedoruk research, if successful, would help doctors to identify HER2-positive cancer more readily and to prescribe effective treatment – saving time, money and lives.

Dr. Humphrey Fonge, an adjunct professor in the Department of Medical Imaging at the University of Saskatchewan, is leading the research that will better identify the protein, or biomarkers, on therapy-resistant cells, like HER2.

“When a patient goes to a clinic, they would get injected with a radiopharmaceutical that would more accurately tell which protein is responsible for that cancer and that would allow the physician to more accurately determine treatment to a particular drug rather than a one-size-fits-all method,” he said.

The research is still in the animal-testing phase. Humphrey estimates it will take a “few years” before it goes to Health Canada for approval.

“It’s going to be revolutionary. It will save a lot of costs. If a patient goes to a clinic and is treated with a $70,000 drug and they don’t respond to drug, that’s a loss of $70,000.”

Not only will the imaging agent help to determine which drug therapy should be used, but it will also be able to monitor how patients respond to that therapy.

Neil Alexander, executive director of the Saskatoon-based Fedoruk Centre, said nuclear imaging is helping in cancer research as well in the fields of heart and brain research.

He calls it an area of expertise the Fedoruk Centre is developing through the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, which is leading to “great breakthroughs around the world.”

“The developments that are taking place in nuclear imaging will mean that our children will not be as terrified of diseases like cancer as we were because we will know so much more about them,” he said.

“Our ability to image them will give us that much more data both about the processes that cause cancer and how we can disrupt them and the ways that we can then treat them in order to minimize their consequences.”

Alexander said a large part of modern life would not be possible but for the development of innovative nuclear technology.

“The industry is hugely broad based and the innovations have led to the foundations of modern society,” he said.