Modern human PET/CT camera system in the Turku PET Center.

Science and technology

Groundbreaking advancements in radiopharmaceuticals, specifically glutamine- and folate-based compounds, are paving the way for more sensitive and versatile PET imaging of glioma brain tumors.

Gliomas are brain tumors that originate from glial cells responsible for nutrient transportation.

Due to the crucial and delicate nature of brain tissue, glioma tumors can be particularly devastating. Surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy often come with undesirable consequences.

Given the difficulty in treating aggressive brain tumors, detecting and evaluating tumor characteristics without surgery is pivotal for treatment planning. At present, the primary imaging tools for the brain are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), offering superior anatomical precision, and positron emission tomography (PET), which reveals biochemical information.

Developing and characterizing novel radiopharmaceuticals for use in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is a critical step towards the detection and treatment planning of glioma brain tumors in experimental disease models.

MSc Maxwell Miner's dissertation, titled "Emerging radiopharmaceuticals for PET-imaging gliomas: A multi-radiopharmaceutical, camera, modality, model, and modelling assessment," delves into the radiopharmaceuticals utilized in glioma PET imaging along with the associated modalities, cameras, experimental models, and modeling. The dissertation is examined by one of the field's leading experts, Professor Klaus Kopka, the director of a renowned major radio-pharmaceutical research center in Dresden, Germany.

Miner's research compares newly developed glutamine- and folate-based radiopharmaceuticals with established glucose- and methionine-based compounds used in clinical practice. The stability, biological distribution, binding, and pharmacokinetic modeling of radiopharmaceuticals were investigated across various glioma models and different PET techniques.

The results highlight that glutamine- and folate-based radiopharmaceuticals enable better contrast between the tumor and its surroundings.

"In an ideal scenario, a PET radiopharmaceutical could not only sensitively detect gliomas but also provide specific insights into cancer cell surface proteins or their metabolic processes crucial for treatment," Miner explains.

"It's possible that in the future, biochemical information obtained through imaging could potentially eliminate the need for biopsies or the extraction of tissue samples from delicate brain tissue," he adds.