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Nuclear & Plasma Sciences Society

Distinguished Lectures

Dr. Alberto Del Guerra

University of Pisa


Past, Present and Future of Positron Emission Tomography

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a well established diagnostic technique for in vivo molecular imaging. After a brief history of PET, the physical principles and its main performance parameters will be presented. The evolution of the technology that has brought PET from a bench experiment to a clinical indispensable instrument will be fully illustrated. In particular, the present limitations and the expected future performance of the PET tomographs will be discussed, both as for the hardware and software aspects. The status of art of clinical, preclinical and hybrid scanners (i.e., PET/CT and PET/MR) will be shown. Finally the recent and future technological developments will be presented. As specific examples, the current applications of PET for range monitoring in particle therapy (INSIDE project) and the hybrid PET/MR/EEG scanner under development (FP7 TRIMAGE project) for brain study will be discussed.

The current status and challenges of detection and imaging in particle therapy

Hadrontherapy is a cancer therapy performed with ions, mostly protons, for the treatment of solid and radio-resistant tumors located in the vicinity of critical organs. At global level there is a huge interest in hadrontherapy, especially for the treatment with protons. By 2020 it is foreseen that there will be almost 100 centers around the world (over 30 in Europe). The extreme precision of this therapy derives from the characteristic high deposition of dose at the so-called Bragg peak. This precision is impaired by particle range uncertainties that can be caused by errors in the planning treatment, by physiological changes in the patient morphology or by patient positioning errors. In this lecture the principle and applications of hadrontherapy and the most advanced techniques that are under study for particle range monitoring will be discussed. Proton radiography and proton tomography have been proposed in similarity to X-ray projection radiography and X-ray CT, respectively. However, most of the on-going research is addressing the imaging of the products of the nuclear interactions of the protons/ions within the body, e.g. the prompt neutral particles (neutron and gamma) and the positron emitter nuclei. The various imaging devices that are under investigation or that have already reached the clinical stage will be fully illustrated.


Alberto Del Guerra is Professor of Medical Physics at the University of Pisa, Italy. He has been retired for two years, but is still coordinating the FP7 funded European project “TRIMAGE: A dedicated trimodality (PET/MR/EEG) imaging tool for schizophrenia” and is still teaching Medical Physics at the Department of Physics. Previous appointments were Professor of Medical Physics (University of Ferrara) and Professor of Physics (University of Napoli). He has been Visiting Scientist at LBL (Berkeley) and Visiting Professor at UW (Seattle). He has been NSS chair (1999-Seattle), General Chair (2004-Roma) and MIC chair (2011-Valencia) of the IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference. He has served on many NPSS committees and has been elected member of NPSS ADCOM (2011-2014). He is an IEEE Life Fellow. He has been President of the European Federation of Organizations for Medical Physics (EFOMP) and has served on various committees of Radiology (ECR) and Nuclear Medicine (EANM) European Associations. He has been Editor in chief of the journal Physica Medica-EJMP for 20 years (1988-2008). He is member of the CERN Medical Application International Scientific Committee (ISC). He is honorary member of EFOMP, honorary member of DGMP and honorary Editor of Physica Medica-EJMP. His main research interests are in medical imaging, especially Positron Emission Tomography, with almost 400 Papers in Refereed Journals.

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