Alberta Cancer Foundation

Cross Cancer Institute welcomes
new generation of scanning technology

PET Scanner

Thanks to our donors, two cutting-edge machines at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute are making waves in cancer screening and treatment for Albertans. They are the new generation of PET/CT scanners at the Cross Cancer Institute, are capable of providing high resolution images, and have become a valuable tool in cancer detection.

With their ability to spot small tumors, and process three times as many patients as conventional scanners, the PET/CT scanners are becoming a powerful tool for the Edmonton PET Centre.

The new PET/CT machines are the latest additions to what research director of the Edmonton PET Centre Dr. John Mercer calls "a fantastic facility, one that in the last 10 years has become a globally recognized leader in radiopharmaceutical development."

The scanner comprises two parts: the machinery to scan the patient and a bed on which the patient lies that moves through the ring in the centre of the scanner.

The CT (computed tomography) is like a three-dimensional X-ray. "It allows us a precise idea of where a tumor is located." Together, the scans show a transparent, 3-D version of the patient that doctors can manipulate and zoom in on. The tracers light up the tissues doctors are looking for.

The PET/CT scanners have also been transformational in cancer treatment and advancements, allowing for more than 50 clinical trials that otherwise would have not been possible.

"We are trying to fine-tune our prediction to a response to treatment," he says. "We are trying to tie ourselves to personalized medicine. Having these instruments here lets us get even closer to that."

With a price tag of $3 million per machine, many Alberta Cancer Foundation donors have funded these machines.

"We are long-time supporters of the Alberta Cancer Foundation," says Garry Tansem, EECOL Electric’s regional manager for Northern Alberta. "We wanted to put the funds into the region where we live and work," Tansem says. "People from our region, Northern Alberta, usually go to the Cross Cancer Institute for cancer diagnosis and treatment. We saw the scanner as significantly impacting care in our area."

Successful business owners in Alberta, Reinhard and Elisabeth Muhlenfeld first met with the Alberta Cancer Foundation as a way of giving back to the community that has supported them. "As Reinhard says, we made the money here and it should stay here in Alberta," says Elisabeth. They made an initial generous donation and, after a tour of the facility during which they found out what the machine could do, they followed up with a second donation. "They needed some toys to go with it," Muhlenfeld says.

The Stollery Charitable Foundation originally discussed the PET/CT scanners in 2008 with Dr. Tony Fields, former head of the Cross Cancer Institute. His enthusiasm and clear explanations captured the interest of Graham and Jeff Bryson, director of granting at the Stollery Charitable Foundation. "We took Dr. Field’s information to the family to see what we might do to help." Graham adds that part of the attraction was the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s reputation as an organization that uses donor dollars effectively. "We knew that we’d be able to paint with a wide brush," Graham says, "and that the scanners would help a large swath of people in Alberta."

Thank you to all of our donors for bringing this world-class technology to Alberta.

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It allows us a precise idea of where a tumour is located.

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