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First Minister launches PET Centre

18 February 2011

PET scanner WEB CJFirst Minister Carwyn Jones talks to Janet Pugh about her scan

The First Minister of Wales, the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, has officially launched the new Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging Centre.

The Centre offers Welsh patients and University researchers a high-resolution scanning facility which can track cancers and other tissue in incredible detail, meaning diseases can potentially be detected at an earlier stage.

At the launch, the First Minister said the Centre offered patients earlier and improved diagnosis of their conditions, as well as allowing researchers to work on new treatments. He added that the Centre was also playing a role in economic development, offering the type of highly-skilled employment the Assembly Government is keen to encourage in Wales.

The £1.8M PET scanner is housed in the Centre’s specially-built premises operated by the University in partnership with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. The scanner, built by international technology company GE, is one of the most advanced of its kind in the UK. It has been operational since September, and has already given some 500 patients access to a service they previously had to travel to England for.

At today’s launch, the First Minister viewed the scanning technology, which allows the detection of tumours when they are just a few millimetres in size. It also shows how active tumours are and how patients are responding to therapy. This allows doctors to determine on the most appropriate course of treatment, and early information to help them change to a different therapy if it is not working. He also spoke to one of the patients undergoing a scan, Janet Pugh, from Towyn in North Wales.

PET scanner group shot WEBAt the formal launch are Paul Williams, Chief Executive NHS Wales; Professor Paul Morgan, Dean, Cardiff Medical School; Dr John Rees, Clinical Director PETIC; Jan Williams, Chief Executive Cardiff and Vale University Health Board; First Minister Carwyn Jones; Dr David Grant, Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

The First Minister was also shown the Centre’s £1M cyclotron which will be used to create the tracer drugs used in the PET process. Cardiff University researchers will, in collaboration with research groups across Wales, the UK and internationally, work on the development of new tracers, treatments and treatment planning, in the Centre’s cutting-edge research laboratories and production suite.

The £16.5M Centre was funded jointly by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Departments of Health and of Economy and Transport. The launch was also attended by Paul Williams, Director-General of NHS Wales and Jan Williams, Chief Executive of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, along with other senior figures from the Assembly Government, the NHS and many of the companies involved in the project.

The First Minister said : "The new PET scanner is one of the most advanced of its kind in the UK. Patients in Wales are already benefiting directly from a technology which allows cancers to be spotted at an earlier stage and in much greater detail. The Centre is also a research facility where new scanning and therapeutic techniques will be developed with major partners in international medicine. The Centre is an excellent example of the Assembly Government, Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board working in partnership to establish Wales as a world leader for the quality of its healthcare."

Dean of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, Professor Paul Morgan, said: "We and our partners in the NHS are extremely grateful to the Assembly Government for funding this crucial new development. The Centre will be used both for advanced scanning services for patients and for cutting edge clinical research. PET technology can image pathology undetectable by other methods and allows better targeting of therapy and improved understanding of how drugs work. Chemists and Physicists will be using the Centre to test new agents that can provide even better patient scanning and improvements to the effectiveness of radiotherapy. Medical and biological scientists will use PET to improve understanding of disease and to test new therapies for patients with diverse diseases, including cancer, heart diseases and dementia."

Professor Steve Tomlinson, former Cardiff University provost and, from the beginning, a driving force behind the creation of PETIC, said: "In a position statement in 2002, when I was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales College of Medicine, I wrote: 'There are considerable strengths in Wales in the Biomedical and Health Sciences, many of which require state-of-the-art imaging facilities to remain internationally competitive.'
"Wales at that point had fallen behind and was the only country or region of the UK without its own PET scanner. I'm delighted to say that with PETIC, as well as the Cardiff University Brain Repair Imaging Centre(CUBRIC)and EMRIC, we are now at the leading edge not only with PET scanning but in the wider imaging sciences. It is essential we collaborate together within Wales,the UK and internationally to make the best use of this equipment and the skills of our staff to produce world-class research, putting Wales in its rightful place in the forefront of biomedical and health sciences ultimately for the benefit of our patients."

PET scanner lab shot WEBThe First Minister watches scanning in progress from the PETIC control room

Kesh Baboolal, Director of Acute University Hospital Services, said: "I am very pleased that the First Minister has been able to see for himself the excellent work being done by the team here at University Hospital of Wales. The PET scanner is a great example of how collaborative working between the Health Board and the University, backed by Welsh Assembly Government funding, is making a real difference to patient care here in Wales.

"To get access to such hi-tech diagnostics, patients would have had to travel to England in the past. The scanner will allow us to tailor treatments to patients needs here in Cardiff by providing us with much more accurate information about a wide range of conditions and diseases like cancer. This in turn will make our care more efficient, improve patient experience and help save the lives of people from not only Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, but across Wales."

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