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Cant. behind bid for country’s first PET scanner

University of Canterbury
news release
21 January 2004

Canterbury University behind bid for country’s first PET scanner

In a bid to improve cancer detection and treatment in New Zealand, the University of Canterbury’s Physics Department has applied to the government for funding for the country’s first PET scanner.

The University has applied for $6 million funding as part of a $55 million application package under the government’s new Partnerships for Excellence scheme. A further $7.5 million will come from the Christchurch Radiology Group in cash and rent of clinical space.

Head of Physics and Astronomy Professor Phil Butler said PET scanners were a big advance on traditional gamma cameras and the next big technological step in cancer imaging.

The University, the Christchurch Radiology Group and the Canterbury District Health Board, have formed a partnership that aims to introduce the technology to New Zealand.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) combined with x-ray computed tomography (CT) is a relatively new medical imaging technology combining the molecular/physiological imaging properties of a nuclear medicine technique with anatomical imaging.

“They give crystal clear images of all active cancer sites in a patient.”

Professor Butler said there were about eight PET scanners in Australia but none in New Zealand.

“With a PET/CT scanner up to 2000 patients a year will know where their active cancer sites are,” said Professor Butler. “They will know if they have metastasised cancer and will know if these are best removed surgically, by chemotherapy or by radiation technology.”

“PET scanning allows the appropriate treatment regime to be selected immediately, with significant improvement in treatment efficacy and in the patient’s quality of life. This is all accomplished with significant cost savings to the health funder.”

Professor Butler said the partnership continued the long history that Christchurch has of being at the leading edge in medical technologies.

“We plan to work with Swiss, Auckland and Melbourne universities and big particle physics accelerators at CERN, Geneva, to progress the technology so that New Zealanders have access to state-of-the-art cancer imaging now and in the future.”

Director of the Medical Physics Programme, Associate Professor Lou Reinisch, stressed that the PET/CT scanner would not only be used for clinical medicine, but as part of a larger research project to improve cancer care well beyond the current level.

“We don’t want to just catch up to the rest of the world, we want to be in the front in this arena.”

The Partnership for Excellence scheme was launched by the Government last year to enable tertiary institutions to access funding for significant new projects. Private sector investment is expected to match that of government contributions. The Government hopes the scheme will encourage greater private sector investment in tertiary education and foster better links between tertiary institutions, business and industry.

Canterbury has applied for $55 million worth of funding having already attracted $102 million worth of funding in cash and kind from the private sector.

The University expects to hear mid-year whether its application for funding has been successful.


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