University of Arizona selects Cubresa’s NuPET scanner for cancer research

Cubresa Inc., a medical imaging company that develops and markets molecular imaging systems, today announced that their compact PET scanner called NuPET™ for simultaneous preclinical PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) has been selected by the University of Arizona (UA).

Cubresa's NuPET™ PET scanner is placed into the bore of an MRI magnet, enabling simultaneous preclinical PET/MR molecular & functional imaging.

PET and MRI are complementary imaging methods for better understanding disease and testing novel treatments in small animal subjects. The University of Arizona will be the first institution in the United States to acquire this instrument.

“Simultaneous PET and MRI acquisition is essential for the work that we’re doing, developing new contrast agents to detect biomarkers,” says Dr. Marty Pagel, professor and director of cancer imaging, Department of Medical Imaging. “A more precise understanding of the effect of certain therapies by using simultaneous PET/MRI advances the concept of personalized medicine—optimizing treatment for each individual.”

Currently, the University of Arizona does not have small animal PET service on campus. This PET/MRI system will bring a new capability to UA research endeavors. The UA purchased the NuPET™ scanner in collaboration with the Department of Medical Imaging and the UA BIO5™ Institute in order to fully exploit a unique MRI method and the synthesis of contrast agents that relies on patented technology from Pagel’s lab to measure a tumor’s acidity. Studies have shown that measuring a tumor’s pH factor could help doctors to monitor the effect of a variety of treatments on solid tumors and normal tissue, and could even predict the effectiveness of chemotherapies before the patient starts the medication.

“We’re very excited to know that the NuPET™ system will be empowering scientists to more accurately interrogate a tumor’s characteristics for the benefit of cancer research,” says George Abe, CEO of Cubresa. “Cancer is multifaceted. The Cubresa NuPET™ system provides researchers at the University of Arizona with the ability to monitor structural, functional and molecular changes at the same time under identical physiological conditions in order to help better understand the underlying disease and develop targeted therapies.”

Faculty at the University of Arizona are primed with two research areas to begin work when the PET insert arrives. First, they have developed an MRI method that measures tumor acidosis. Tumors have high metabolism and generate a lot of lactic acid, a process known as aerobic glycolysis. PET is often used to track the start of aerobic glycolysis by detecting a radioactive form of glucose (fluoro-deoxyglucose, or FDG) that is rapidly transported into cancer cells. Pagel and colleagues plan to combine the existing MRI method with the FDG PET method to track both the start and end of aerobic glycolysis in tumors. This will improve the assessment of tumor biology, especially changes in tumor biology in response to therapies.

Second, researchers at the UA have developed a PET/MRI contrast agent that is detected with both PET and MRI. This hybrid chemical contrast agent will allow them to measure tumor acidosis very accurately. There are advantages to a "one agent injection" method vs. the injection of a cocktail of 2 agents for PET and MRI that are described above in the first project.

The University of Arizona has strong interests in translating their new methods to the clinic to improve the detection of tumors, and to assess early responses in tumors that are caused by chemotherapies. The UA also plans to obtain a clinical PET/MRI scanner in 2018, so researchers will be ideally suited for this clinical translation in about 18 months.

Cubresa will showcase the NuPET™ scanner in Booth 1148 at the SNMMI (Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging) 2016 Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 11—14, 2016.

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