New study finds novel method for early and accurate calcification detection

Researchers from King’s College London have studied the comparative efficacy of two types of radiotracers to detect extraosseous calcification (EC) via PET imaging.

Extraosseous calcification (EC) is the process by which calcium deposits in the body find their way into soft tissue instead of being inserted into the bones. EC lesions are linked to serious health implications; patients with confirmed EC are at a higher mortality risk due to calcification impeding the normal functioning of vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, etc.

The study has found that a novel radiotracer ([68Ga]Ga-THP-Pam) can help effectively identify EC accurately and at an early stage via PET imaging. The only method that is currently established to detect EC clinically is X-ray-based imaging, but this technique is only able to detect the issue at a very advanced stage when medical interventions lack effectiveness.

Studies have previously identified that PET imaging using the radiotracer 18F-fluoride can detect early-stage EC with high sensitivity. In this process, 18F -fluoride binds to the calcium mineral hydroxyapatite (HAp), commonly found in EC lesions, to indicate where the calcification is based in the body.

However, researchers from King’s have found that 18F -fluoride preferentially binds the HAp mineral found in bones, and does not bind to several other calcium minerals that can be found in disease-related EC lesions. This limitation restricts the ability of 18F -fluoride to find the full extent of EC during the imaging process.

Further to this finding, the group has now established that [68Ga]Ga-THP-Pam allows the detection of micro- and macro-EC lesions in organs more sensitively than 18F-fluoride. Due to its ability to bind with a broad range of calcium minerals, this radiotracer can find calcifications regardless of their HAp content, making the imaging process more accurate than before.

The researchers suggest that the use of this bisphosphonate radiotracer in PET imaging should be clinically evaluated to allow for earlier and more accurate diagnoses of EC along with improved outcomes for patients facing the issue. Read the research paper here.

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UK launches first national Total-Body PET platform for drug discovery

The National PET Imaging Platform (NPIP) will bring together data from two state-of-the-art total-body PET imaging scanners located at St Thomas’ Hospital, London (jointly managed by King’s College London and Imperial College London), and The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (jointly managed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow), and make it accessible to academics, industry and clinicians.

NPIP is a partnership between Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Innovate UK, and will deliver scientific breakthroughs with the launch of the UK’s first-of-its-kind national total-body positron emission tomography (PET) imaging platform for drug discovery.

The National PET Imaging Platform will deploy total-body PET across the UK, bringing together transformational research from two state-of-the-art total-body PET imaging scanners. It will transform medical research and industrialise cutting-edge technology, enhancing the quality and speed of drug discovery.

By facilitating access to total-body PET imaging for clinicians, academics and industry, NPIP will help accelerate discoveries, leading to more advances for UK researchers and better outcomes for patients, improving the calibre of healthcare now and in the long term.

PET scanning is a crucial, non-invasive imaging technique that can detect diseases’ early onset. With higher sensitivity than existing technology, NPIP’s total-body PET scanners will provide new insights into anatomy that have never been seen before, improving our detection, diagnosis and treatment of complex, multi-organ diseases.

Current PET technology is less sensitive and requires the patient to be repositioned multiple times to achieve a full-body field of view. Total-body PET scans are quicker, exposing patients to considerably lower doses of radiation, meaning more patients, including children, can participate in clinical trials to improve researchers’ understanding of diseases. The speed of total-body PET scanners means that NPIP will be able to facilitate more patient scans, enhancing the scale and impact of clinical research projects.

This richer picture of human health will help us develop drugs and diagnostics more effectively and bring them to market quicker, benefiting patients and enabling the UK to unlock new opportunities to treat complex diseases like cancer and cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Supplied by Siemens Healthineers, the two total-body Biograph Vision Quadra PET/CT scanners capture outstanding image clarity of a patient’s entire body in near real-time. The scanners will be situated in Scotland and London, serving the length and breadth of the UK. Each facility will be jointly managed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and by King’s College London and Imperial College London in London, and the scanners are expected to be operational as soon as April 2024.

NPIP’s network of infrastructure and intelligence will provide a complete picture of patients and how they respond to novel drugs and treatments. Uniquely, it will also connect insights from many research programmes and trials. In doing so, it will begin to build a rich bank of data that the PET community can access for the benefit of patients.

The UK Government, through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund, has invested £32 million into the groundbreaking total-body PET technology that will help drive the UK’s reputation as a global life science superpower.

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Meet CARL: New Radiochemistry Laboratory opening in St Thomas’ MedTech Hub

A new national research-dedicated centre located within St Thomas’ Hospital as part of the King’s and St Thomas’ MedTech Hub, the facility will specialise in radionuclide production and radiopharmaceutical chemistry for preclinical applications. CARL is a multi-user facility, available to both academia and industry.

Until now, there has been no dedicated, non-GMP-regulated radiopharmaceutical research facility in the UK able to handle high levels of radioactivity, a bottleneck for domestic radionuclide production and radiopharmaceutical research.

The initial upgrade of the CARL laboratory facilities was funded by a £1m equipment grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), awarded to Prof Tony Gee, Prof Alexander Hammers, Prof Phil Blower, Dr Karin Nielsen and Dr Julia Blower, with significant additional support from King’s College London Estates and Facilities.

The facility houses equipment for high-activity radionuclide production and radiochemistry development including hot cells, automated synthesis equipment and specialist analytical equipment.

The 11 MeV cyclotron that originally launched the KCL and GSTT PET Centre in 1991 has also been refurbished as part of the CARL facility. It will be used for making radionuclides for further research onsite in CARL and the Department of Imaging Chemistry and Biology, as well as small-scale supply to research labs across the UK. The centre will also enable hands-on training and teaching on site.


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Micro-robots meet the public at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition 2023

Visitors to the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, 4th – 9th July, will be able to learn how new micro-surgical robotic systems are being developed that can operate within the human retina and other areas deep within the human body.

The exhibit, ‘Super-human capabilities in tiny spaces: micro-surgical robotics for eye surgery’ aims to showcase how we can improve surgical performance by developing smart robotic instrumentation.

Audiences will be shown how micro-robotics could be used for cutting-edge procedures including delivering regenerative STEM-cell therapies to restore sight to people with conditions such as age related macular degeneration.

Continuum robots move like an elephant’s trunk, can flex and alter their shape to avoid critical anatomical regions, and can control the position and orientation of their tip to mimic the dexterity of the human hand. These robots can reach the bottom part of the eye where they can transplant retinal cells to replace damaged ones, ultimately improving the dexterity of the surgeon.

As the robotic micro-surgeons need to operate within the confined space of the eye, one needs to think beyond conventional articulated robots that require large transmission systems and bulky interfaces. In such spaces, continuum robots offer the best compromise between size and dexterity.

The project is the latest outing for the School’s ongoing Hospital of the Future themed series of public experiences and exhibits, following on from the success of last year’s popular feature at New Scientist Live 2022.

The Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition is a free interactive experience featuring exhibits, talks and activities to showcase the latest advances in science and technology.


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Professor Gary Cook Awarded Roll of Honour

Professor Cook trained in radiology and nuclear medicine in London, completing his MD in Quantitative 18F-fluoride PET in Metabolic Bone Diseases at King’s College London.

He was appointed to the Chair of Molecular Imaging in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences Cancer Imaging Department and KCL and Guy’s & St Thomas PET Centre and as an honorary consultant physician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in 2011.

Professor Cook currently leads a research group undertaking imaging trials including multicentre UK studies related to his research interests: novel functional imaging cancer biomarkers, development of radiomic methods and software, functional imaging of bone metabolism and bone metastases.

As a member of the BNMS for over 30 years, Professor Cook has been involved in working parties producing PET standards and a PET radiopharmaceutical manifesto. He has contributed to best practice guidelines for BNMS, European and US writing committees for breast, upper GI, prostate, and anal cancers.

The British Nuclear Medicine Society is the only independent forum devoted to all aspects of nuclear medicine in the UK. The BNMS Roll of Honour was established in 2017 to honour and remember those distinguished members who contributed to the history of nuclear medicine in the UK and to the BNMS. The Officers appoint to the BNMS Roll of Honour, a small number of highly distinguished members who have played significant roles in the history of the specialty.

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