Do nuclear medicine physicians need a new identity?

Dr. Richard Wahl.

“This field has been reinvented many times,” Wahl said in his speech, in which he noted significant events over the past year.

New diagnostic and therapeutic agents, such as lutetium-177 PSMA-617 (Pluvicto, Novartis), are transforming the field. Nuclear medicine physicians must now ensure they are involved in medical, surgical, interventional and radiation oncology decisions to ensure the best patient care, he said.

The new moniker is a step towards ensuring that nuclear medicine physicians have a role to play in the future of radiopharmaceutical therapy. The alternative is a limited role, which allows only brief interactions with patients, he said.

To that end, in May, the SNMMI Board of Directors approved the term “nuclear oncologist” to define a nuclear medicine physician who works with radiation therapies. However, one cannot be a nuclear oncologist without being a nuclear medicine doctor, because the body of knowledge in nuclear medicine is essential for this role, Wahl said.

Additionally, the SNMMI Board of Directors voted on June 11 to provide funding to support nuclear oncology fellowships for clinical nuclear oncology. The plan is to help nuclear medicine doctors integrate as key parts of patient management teams, not just therapy providers, he said.

Other initiatives Wahl mentioned include the creation of the SNMMI Mars Shot Fund, an effort to raise $100 million to help pay for research in nuclear medicine, molecular imaging and therapy.

“There’s already been a ‘Moon Shot’ – and our goal is to go further,” Wahl told attendees.

To date, approximately $1 million has been raised. The Mars Shot Fund is governed by a board of scientists and funders, as well as a Scientific Advisory Board, which will guide its direction. As additional funds are obtained, the council will make research funds available through a grant application process.

Additionally, SNMMI advises Congress to include a line item for the Mars Shot Fund in the budget for the U.S. Department of Energy or Department of Defense in the next session.

Wahl also discussed SMMI’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Working Group, which recently developed the RELIANCE Guidelines, a set of best practices for evaluating algorithms that may be ready for deployment in clinical practice.

“We have a problem with the lack of doctors, technologists, scientists, pharmacists – you name it – so being helped with software tools can be invaluable,” Wahl said.

Wahl, chief of radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and director of the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, is the immediate past president of SNMMI.

Dr. Munir Ghesani of Mount Sinai Health System will serve as chair for the 2022-2023 term. The company announced its new slate of officers on June 13 at the annual meeting.

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