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What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear Medicine is a multi-professional, independent, medical discipline based on the application of probes labelled with radionuclides (radiopharmaceuticals) to both diagnose and treat various diseases. Its scope encompasses molecular imaging, image-guided procedures, and targeted radionuclide therapy.

Using radiopharmaceuticals, Nuclear Medicine procedures target specific physio-pathological processes or features underlying a disease directly at the molecular level. Using advanced hybrid equipment (i.e., combination with radiological imaging, SPECT/CT and PET/CT, or PET/MRI) the functional data obtained from Nuclear Medicine is combined with information obtained by CT and MRI. This multimodal approach ensures a comprehensive diagnostic map, fostering precision medicine to diagnose, prognosticate, administer targeted therapy, guide treatment, and monitor its effects.

Theranostics is a specific branch of Nuclear Medicine which combines diagnostic imaging and targeted therapy by selecting the used radionuclide according to its radiation properties. The use of a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical enables the selection of patients for a subsequent treatment by targeting a specific molecular feature of the disease. The matched therapeutic agent, targeting the very same feature, is a radiopharmaceutical as well. Thus, such pairs of radiolabelled compounds, the radiotheranostics, are used to ‘see what we treat’ and ‘treat what we see’.

Recommended in clinical guidelines, several Nuclear Medicine procedures implementing state-of-the-art clinical standards are currently available to enhance patient care worldwide, for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The Nuclear Medicine discipline is defined by its commitment to quality improvement, technological innovation, stringent safety standards for radiation protection, and thorough health technology evaluations to safeguard both medical staff and patients.

Furthermore, Nuclear Medicine plays a pivotal role in biomedical research by facilitating the accelerated development of new drugs, especially in early-phase clinical trials. The application of total-body imaging, the reliance on AI-supported deep data analysis, and the implementation of true non-invasive network medicine are paving the way for the future of medical treatment standards.

As an umbrella organisation representing healthcare professionals working in Nuclear Medicine, the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) is devoted to promoting a safe, sustainable, and accessible use of radiopharmaceuticals. The EANM is cooperating with major medical societies from other clinical fields to ensure a safe and equal access to healthcare for all patients across Europe. A special focus is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of Nuclear Medicine physicians, medical physicists, radiochemists, pharmacists, and technologists to ensure the discipline’s continued advancements and its benefits to patient care.

Interested in learning more about Nuclear Medicine?

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