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Progress in medical imaging hinges on more cooperation

01 Nov 2007

Industry and academia must cooperate more closely on tightly focused research to ensure that patients benefit from emerging imaging technologies.

New imaging technologies will enable improved and more cost-effective health care, but there needs to be closer cooperation between doctors, scientists and industry if Europe is to realize the full potential of new developments and remain competitive.

That is the conclusion of a policy briefing from the European Science Foundation which identifies imaging as one of the fastest growing areas within medicine, one that is vital for preventative medicine, early diagnosis, minimally invasive surgery and tailored therapy for patients.

"Both short- and long-term research activities must be planned," said report authors John Marks and Liselotte Hojgaard. "Short-term applied research is necessary for translation of new technology into clinical practice. Long-term basic research is necessary to develop and evaluate new methods, especially in the areas of functional and molecular imaging, and in using imaging as a research tool to investigate disease processes and innovative therapies."

New imaging technology is allowing more detailed functional information to be obtained about structures within the body, such as the potential for tissues to become cancerous or the characteristics leading to Alzheimer's. Imaging is also becoming more important at guiding surgery and targeting radiation therapy.

To capitalize on these developments, the ESF recommends:
• Improved collaboration between universities, between academia and industry, between imaging specialists and clinicians, and between different imaging modalities.
• The establishment of large interdisciplinary research groups with access to long-term funding.
• That academia should identify the goals of joint research between universities and industry.

"These steps are important in order to obtain medical imaging research with the necessary size and interdisciplinarity," said Marks. "The research must be focused on improved patient outcome and cost-effective healthcare."

More evidence-based medicine at a European level is called for, through validations of clinical practice and evaluations of both health technology and socio-economic effects. Appropriate training and education when technology moves out of the laboratory and into the clinic is also essential, says the briefing.

EST's recognition of the importance of medical imaging has been underlined by the decision to present this year's Latsis Prize of SWF100,000 ($86,000) to the scientist or team that has made an outstanding and innovative contribution to the field.

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