04 May 2017 Volume :5 Issue :24

Nuclear Medicine’s Role in Cancer Diagnosis and Management Discussed at Seminar

Nuclear Medicine’s Role in Cancer Diagnosis and Management Discussed at Seminar
The Head of KwaZulu-Natal’s Health Department, Dr Sifiso Mtshali (second left), with Nuclear Medicine specialists at the update seminar.

New diagnostic approaches and treatments for cancer involving nuclear medicine were discussed by specialists in the field and Oncologists at a recent seminar in Durban.

The KwaZulu-Natal Nuclear Medicine fraternity, including representatives from UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, organised the inaugural update seminar titled: “Emerging Oncological Diagnostic and Therapeutical Radiopharmarceuticals in South Africa”. 

‘We appreciate the hard work and effort put in by our Oncology specialists in this province,’ said the Head of KwaZulu-Natal’s Health Department Dr Sifiso Mtshali, while welcoming the nuclear medicine specialists and oncologists at the inaugural Nuclear Medicine Update Seminar held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital.

The seminar provided a platform to discuss the experiences of the specialists and allowed the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department to showcase its advances and improvements in the Discipline of Oncology.

Oncologist Dr Leon Marais of the Oncology Centre in Umhlanga spoke on the management of neuroendocrine tumours in Oncology and the challenges faced by conventional therapy.

The Head of Nuclear Medicine at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and the Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, Professor Willy Vangu, identified accurate tumour screening and the importance of frank clinical judgement as fundamentals in diagnosis and therapy for neuroendocrine tumours.

Vangu discussed the role nuclear medicine played in the treatment of tumours using radiopharmaceuticals such as Gallium-68 peptides and Lutetium-177 or Ytrium-90 labelled peptides.

The Head of the Nuclear Medicine Department at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, Professor Mike Sathekge, and Dr Robert De Bruyne of the Oncology Department at Hopelands Cancer Centre in Durban, presented on the challenges faced in treating prostate cancer which remains an ongoing disease burden worldwide. They spoke about managing the disease and were unanimous in the impression that more could and should be done for patients using new treatment options available.

Sathekge gave an overview of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents used in the management of prostate cancer and outlined scientific and clinical work being done using radio-labelled prostate-membrane specific antigen (PSMA).

Head of Nuclear Medicine at Tygerberg Hospital in Stellenbosch, Professor Annare Ellman, said pain management was one of the most significant factors in the management of cancer patients. Ellman identified the radiopharmaceuticals used in treating bone pain, emphasising the important role they played, the impact on patient survival and disease control and how they worked physiologically in bone to reduce pain, a common presentation in most malignancies.

The Head of Nuclear Medicine at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Dr Nozipho Nyakale, gave a comprehensive overview of the role the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) radiotracer, Flourine-18 DOPA, played in the imaging of different types of tumours, including neuroendocrine tumours, medullary thyroid cancer and brain tumours.  She gave examples of how using this modality could result in a change in management of the disease as experienced with their patients locally. 

Representatives from Radiopharmaceutical companies, Mr Jannie van Zyl of Axim and Ms Mapula Letsoalo of AEC-Amersham gave brief talks on the availability of the products described nationally, the challenges they face with regard to distance from Durban and other compounding factors.  They said their aim was to ensure that South Africans were not disadvantaged and that state-of-the-art therapies were available to them.

The seminar was a collaboration between the state and the private sector emphasising the important role of Nuclear Medicine in Oncology.

Lihle Sosibo

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