Archive for June, 2018

Carmela Nappi Wins SNMMI Young Investigator Award


Dr. Nappi with her award

Congratulations to Dr. Carmela Nappi for her Young Investigator Award. Dr. Nappi presented her work at the Cardiovascular Council Young Investigator Award Symposium at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) 2018 Annual meeting in Philadelphia, and won the second place. Her study highlights the role of 18F-FDG PET-MR imaging in the early detection of cardiac involvement in AFD patients allowing to identify different stages of disease progression. Myocardial inflammation with pseudo-normalization of abnormal T1 mapping values, associated with abnormal COV values, may represent an intermediate stage before the development of myocardial fibrosis.

MR and FDG-PET images on short-axis veiw of a patient with AFD. (A) high T1 values and (B) abnormal COV in the mid-lateral wall of the left ventricle

Georges El Fakhri Elected SNMMI Fellow

Dr. Georges El Fakhri was elected Fellow to the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging during a special plenary session at the society’s 2018 Annual Meeting, held June 23-26 in Philadelphia for his contributions to quantitative PET/CT/MR imaging.

The SNMMI Fellowship was established in 2016 to recognize distinguished service to the society as well as exceptional achievement in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. It is one of the most prestigious formal recognitions available to long-time SNMMI members. Dr. El Fakhri is the Nathaniel and Diana Alpert Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and the founding Director of the Gordon Center for Medical Imaging at MGH. The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) is an international scientific and medical organization with more than 16,000 members dedicated to raising public awareness about nuclear medicine and molecular imaging through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research.

SNMMI Fellows

Gordon Lecture: Nanoparticles in Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr. Alexandre Detappe is Instructor in Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Detapp was the guest speaker at a lecture organized by the MGH Gordon Center. Below is his presentation summary.

Dr. Alexandre Detappe delivering his presentation at the MGH Gordon Center

Ultrasmall nanoparticles, and more specifically silica-based gadolinium nanoparticles (SiGdNP) demonstrated their ability to act as multimodal imaging agent (PET, MRI, CT) and therapeutic agents. These nanoparticles have been originally designed to act as MRI contrast agents and radiation therapy boosters. Validated preclinically in a wide selection of animal models, SiGdNP have demonstrated to be safe, non-toxic, and highly efficient radiosensitizers. These nanoparticles are currently being tested in a Phase II clinical trial to treat brain metastases. In addition, their imaging ability makes them efficient imaging biomarkers.

Dr. Detappe has focused his efforts on developing a novel imaging biomarker for early detection of Multiple Myeloma - a blood cancer - for which it was demonstrated that an early diagnostic could significantly improve the therapeutic outcomes of the patients’ treatments. In this optic, SiGdNPs were conjugated with monoclonal antibodies to improve their specificity and avoid unwanted accumulation. However, for some patients for whom the disease already degraded their kidneys, inorganic MRI contrast agents cannot be used.

To address this challenge, Dr. Detappe and his colleagues developed a novel metal-free MRI contrast agent that offers the same quality of information than usually observed. The design of this novel polymer also allowed the easy conjugation to a large selection of drugs, in order to decrease the usually observed side effects that arise when using free drugs. As a result, we developed a novel targeted platform for multimodal imaging that can also be used as therapeutic.


Refining Models of Amyloid Accumulation in Alzheimer’s Disease


Changes in MMSE and PET uptake over time

A new study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, proposes to stage amyloid PET images using regional information. The research was conducted by Dr. Bernard Hanseeuw, instructor at MGH Gordon Center, and Dr. Keith Johnson, leader of the Aging NeuroImaging Program at the MGH Gordon Center, and the Harvard Aging Brain Study.

Using longitudinal amyloid PET imaging data collected over three years in more than 1,400 participants including clinically normal (CN) older adults and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dementia (AD), the authors provided in-vivo evidence that amyloid deposits first in neocortex and then in striatum, a subcortical brain structure. This progressive regional involvement from neocortex to striatum had been suspected for long from autopsy data (referred to in the literature as “Thal phases”), but it had never been demonstrated in living humans.

The results of the study showed that regional expansion of amyloid pathology in striatum was predictive of subsequent cognitive decline and progression to Alzheimer’s dementia. Participants with striatal amyloid declined faster than those who only had cortical amyloid. Higher levels of striatal amyloid were also associated with higher levels of tau pathology and hippocampal atrophy, confirming that striatal amyloid was indicative of disease progression.

Amyloid-PET is commonly expressed as a binary measure of cortical deposition (low/high). However, not all individuals with high-cortical amyloid experience rapid cognitive decline. Using a three-stage PET classification (low cortex/high cortex, low striatum/high striatum) allow a better identification of the most at-risk individuals. Such a staging system could also help preventive trials for selecting normal participants based on their risk of developing the disease in the following years.

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Molecular Pathology in Aging and AD


Dr. Aaron Schultz, PhD, Neurology, is a multi-modal neuroimaging researcher focused on aging. He is a co-leader of the Harvard Aging Brain Study (HABS) data core and advanced imaging project, as well as the leader of the functional neuroimaging group for the A4 clinical trial. Dr. Schultz was the guest speaker at a lecture organized by the MGH Gordon Center. Below is his presentation summary.  

Dr. Shultz before his lecture at the MGH Gordon Center

Dr. Schultz discussed his recent work on post-acquisition PET measurement optimization and cross-tracer harmonization. More specifically, his presentation covered his research on aging and AD in the context of molecular pathologies of amyloid-beta and paired helical filament tau. The lecture was followed by a debate of the success and challenges of functional connectivity MRI in the context of aging, AD molecular pathology, and cognitive decline.

High Resolution PET Imaging from Mouse to Human Brain


Dr. Roger Lecomte is Professor of Nuclear Medicine and Radiobiology at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada and the Scientific Head of the Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center ( He developed the first PET scanner based on avalanche photodiodes (APD) and established the first animal PET imaging facility in Canada. He was the co-founder in 2002 of Advanced Molecular Imaging (AMI) Inc., manufacturing the LabPET, the first APD-based, fully-digital, commercial PET scanner distributed worldwide by GE Healthcare from 2007 to 2011. Dr. Lecomte was the guest speaker at a lecture organized by the MGH Gordon Center. Below is his presentation summary.

Dr. Roger Lecomte delivering his presentation at the MGH Gordon Center

Preclinical PET plays an important role in biomedical research by enabling in vivo investigation of molecular processes in animal models. According to Dr. Lecomte, same assays can eventually be translated into powerful diagnostic tools for guiding therapy and assessing treatment outcome in clinical trials and clinical practice. PET imaging in rodents raises special challenges due to the small size of animal organs and the sensitivity required to measure rapid dynamic processes in real time.  Dr. Lecomte has been working to address these issues through a variety of creative solutions. While the theoretical limit of spatial resolution has nearly been reached with current detector technology, further gains in resolution and sensitivity can still be foreseen in clinical PET through technological breakthroughs. One such leap forward is the use of preclinical PET detector technology for human brain imaging.  Another significant progress would be ultra-high resolution time-of-flight acquisition (~10 ps).  In Dr. Lecomte's presentation, developments of the preclinical PET instrumentation were also reviewed along with application examples.

Elmaleh Annual Lecture: Pre-Clinical and Clinical Molecular Imaging in Cancer Research


Dr. Peter Conti is a Professor at the University of Southern California with academic appointments in the Departments of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He received his medical degree from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is board certified in Nuclear Medicine (ABNM) and Diagnostic Radiology (ABR). Dr. Conti has been the Director of the USC PET Imaging Science Center since its inception in 1991. His research activities have focused on the development of novel PET and hybrid imaging agents for diagnostic and theranostic applications in cancer and other diseases.

Peter Conti presenting the Elmaleh Annual Lecture

For the Elmaleh Annual Lecture, Dr. Conti was invited to speak about how molecular imaging has become an essential component of cancer research and patient management. Various modalities constitute the field of molecular imaging, including PET, SPECT, Optical imaging, MR and others. Preclinical and clinical applications in molecular imaging are heavily dependent on the use of either exogenous or endogenous biologically relevant molecules and contrast agents. Dr. Conti spoke about how targeting of imaging agents to disease specific processes is highly relevant for development of useful diagnostic tools as well as for probing the molecular basis of disease.