Piedmont’s innovative molecular imaging for early diagnosis and therapy monitoring
Led by researchers in Italy’s Piedmont Region, the EU-funded PIIMDMT project’s innovative procedures for molecular imaging enable earlier and more precise diagnosis.
" “PIIMDMT has greatly contributed to strengthening the role of Piedmont industries and universities as an internationally recognised area for in-vivo medical imaging. PIIMDMT has been instrumental in establishing the industry-university joint laboratory for preclinical imaging at the BioIndustry Park Silvano Fumero.” "
Molecular imaging allows medical professionals to visualise molecules and molecular events, which can be indicative of a certain pathology or disease. The more precise the imaging, the more likely a doctor will be able to spot a problem, diagnose it and begin early treatment, thereby improving a patient’s well-being.
To help provide this greater level of precision, the PIIMDMT project has designed special probes and imaging methodologies capable of intercepting a pathology’s progress or regress within the cells before these changes cause permanent anatomic or structural modification.
New methods for molecular imaging
The project set out to develop a number of innovative molecular imaging methodologies, including: hyperpolarised probes for overcoming the issue of low sensitivity in magnetic resonance imaging and enabling metabolic imaging; chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) agents for innovative diagnostic solutions based on the simultaneous visualisation of different targets; positron emission tomography/single photon emission computer tomography (PET/SPECT) tracers; bimodal probes for PET/MRI and SPECT/MRI capable of providing complementary information inaccessible using single modality imaging; and methods for applying image analysis to every imaging typology, enabling faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of tumours and other diseases.
Each of these methodologies responds to unmet medical needs and can be transferred to clinical use. In fact, many prototypes are already being implemented in various regional hospitals. With MRIs, for example, the project developed innovative probes that can capture more than one target in a single image. Researchers also developed a computer assisted diagnosis (CAD) system to provide early diagnosis of breast cancer. This system automatically identifies breast lesions and provides information on the status of a malignant tumour.
A regional reference hub
Many of these PIIMDMT methodologies are now being produced and marketed both in Italy and abroad. As a result, the Piedmont Region has nurtured a well-earned reputation as an international reference area for the production of high-precision components for molecular imaging. Much of this research is taking place at the newly established preclinical imaging centre (CEIP), housed at the Silvano Fumero BioIndustry Park, and via the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure Multi-Modal Molecular Imaging Italian (MMMI) node. The ERDF-funded project was instrumental in the establishment of both these facilities.
Furthermore, many of the SMEs involved in the project have since expanded their market and, in some cases, have even created new jobs.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Innovative Procedures of Molecular Images for Diagnostic and Therapy Monitoring (PIIMDMT)” is EUR 5 768 219, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 506 125 through the “Piemonte” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.