Q+A With Terry Jones

Tell me a little bit more about your background.

I am a medical physicist who, from being initially based at the UK’s Medical Research Council’s Cyclotron Unit at Hammersmith Hospital, London, has, since 1968, been involved in the development of the clinical research applications of cyclotron produced, positron emitting radionuclides. I was a  Consultant on the 2015 USA NIH funded program to build the World’s first Total Body PET Scanner. Since, I have been closely involved in reviewing progress made in the construction of the scanner to FDA standards by the Chinese Radiological company; known as United Imaging Healthcare. This technology is the only imaging method able to simultaneously record tomographic images for the whole of the human body, The first human volunteer scans were obtained in September 2018 and a presentation including the initial human scans is scheduled to be presented for the first time at a major conference by a co-author at the RSNA in Chicago on the 29th of November 2018. The technology promises to enable many current PET procedures to be undertaken much better than present, and will represent a paradigm shift in being able to study the “systems biology” of the whole human body using PET based molecular imaging. Will be involved from 2019 in the undertaking of early human proof of concept human application studies at the University of California, Davis.

 

How did you get involved with the uEXPLORER project? What have been some of the greatest challenges and achievements in the project?

Images recorded with current PET scanners are of low statistical quality since typically less than 1% of photons emitted from the body are recorded. Measuring the whole body’s distribution of a PET tracer requires traversing the subject through the short axial views of PET scanners and high temporal resolution kinetic data can only be obtained from single fields of view. To overcome such limitations, the world’s first total body PET scanner has been produced within the u EXPLORER project. One of my endeavours in the field of PET since the mid 1980’s focused on increasing the sensitivity of a PET scanner by removing the shielding inserts known as septa and recording all possible coincidences; a procedure that became known as 3D PET. This mode of PET data collection has become widely adopted for single organ or region of the body scanning with axial fields of view being typically 24 cms. However, it falls short of overcoming the above limitations. Hence as early as 1990. I have been advocating the case for completely covering the subject being scanned with coincident detectors. The below is a schematic illustration for this view which I first showed in 1990 when invited to present an overview of the future of PET scanning instrumentation at an IEEE Medical Imaging conference.

The EXPLORER project was initiated in 2008 within a consortium led by Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi at The University of California, Davis and join by scientists at the universities of Berkeley and Philadelphia. In 2011 some USA NIH funding was obtained to simulate what improvements in performance total body PET scanning would bring about. Knowing of my declared interest in bringing about total body PET scanning, I was approached by Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi in 2013 to join the consortium. While still remaining based in the UK, I was in effect invited to become one of the principals of the project by taking the appointment of visiting professor at the University of California, Davis. I think my major contribution rested on identifying what would be the projected unique applications of total body PET scanning in clinical research and healthcare. This was to be based upon my past experience of undertaking PET based clinical research across a number areas within internal medicine.

 

Challenges:

Building a portfolio of projected applications that would be central to the case for grant funding to construct the World’s first total body PET scanner. Securing the large amount of grant funding needed to build the total body PET scanner in the face of there being no proof of concept of the uniqueness of the projected applications and their impacts in clinical research and healthcare. As well as this, maintaining an ongoing resilience in perseverance with grant applications in the face of disappointing rejections and obtaining a commercial company committed to constructing a total body PET scanner and to producing it as a commercial product to FDA standards

 

Achievements:

The successful NIH award of $15M to build a total body PET scanner. Obtaining the commitment of the Chinese radiological company United Imaging Healthcare to construct a total body PET scanner and to produce it as a commercial product to FDA standards. The physical construction of a near two meter long PET scanner, and the collection and processing of large volumes of data to provide static and dynamic whole body tomographic images. The short 2.5 years time taken by United Imaging to construct the World’s first total body PET scanner and recording the first human total body PET scanner images in the factory of United Imaging Healthcare and presenting the results at the 2018 IEEE meeting in Sydney, and the RSNA meeting in Chicago.

 

What impact does this have on the field of medical imaging in a larger sense?

Demonstration of the first device to record tomographic images of the whole of the human body simultaneously, as well as the demonstration of the Total body PET scanning is destined to realise significant improvements in the use of molecular imaging in clinical research and healthcare. It will detect lower levels of focal pathology, reduce radiation absorbed doses, the time taken to scan, and provide accurate image derived arterial concentrations of tracer for quantifying tissue function. Through dynamic tracer studies, it will provide a step change for investigating the “Systems Biology” of the whole human body. To move human imaging towards examining functional connectivity between regions of the human body e.g. brain-body interaction, which will provide the potential to stimulate new instrumental design of MRI and ultrasound scanners.

 

In your opinion, what does the future for medical imaging look like?

More focus or regional functional imaging at a whole body systems level, more focus on areas under-represented in the portfolio of medical imaging in unmet healthcare needs such as depression, anxiety, obesity, Inflammation and also more focus on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs.

 

What are your expectations for speaking at the Medical Imaging Convention?

Hope that a faction of the audience will resonate with the above messages.

 

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