The latest technology gives The University of Tennessee Medical Center physicians the highest quality scans in the shortest time of any medical facility in the region.

For Harold Bryson, a scan with a state-of-the-art technology called OncoFreeze caught lung cancer early. For many cancer patients like Harold, this new tool could lead to better treatment and a longer life.

How Is OncoFreeze Different?

PET/CT scanning technology plays an important role in cancer treatment. This type of scan detects cancer cells, providing for early diagnosis, precise localization and more accurate tumor detection. Physicians also use PET/CT scans to track how well cancer treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation, has worked.

In 2016, Harold, a patient at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, was diagnosed and treated for throat cancer. Last year, he came back for a follow-up PET/CT scan, which showed his throat was clear of cancer. But the medical center's state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner, with a unique technology called OncoFreeze, detected something new: a small spot on his lung.

That probably doesn't seem groundbreaking, but it is. That's because PET/CT scanners without OncoFreeze may have missed this spot.

Here's why: Traditional PET/CT scanners work sort of like stop-and-start traffic. The scanner takes an image in one location and then moves to another location before taking another image. For areas over the lung, the long scanning times mean that the motion from the patient's breathing can cause the scans to blur. This diminishes the image quality. But OncoFreeze reduces the blurring caused by breathing, creating clearer images. And clearer images lead to better diagnoses, like Harold's.

A Unique Partnership Brought OncoFreeze to East Tennessee

Thanks to a unique partnership between the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine (UTGSM) and Siemens, the maker of OncoFreeze, the medical center has access to some of the most cutting-edge scan research in the world.

The UTGSM's Molecular Imaging & Translational Research Program (MITRP) has worked with Siemens for more than 10 years to bring latest in scanning technology to our area.

For example, the medical center was the first in the country to begin using a PET/CT scanner with FlowMotion. FlowMotion takes the same images as before, but instead of stopping and starting, it does it in a single, continuous sweep, making scans more efficient.

And now, the medical center is the first in the country to use OncoFreeze. Dustin Osborne, PhD, heads up MITRP. "When added to the FlowMotion technology," he said, "OncoFreeze doesn't just reduce the blurring caused by natural breathing, it also speeds up scan time, dropping it from 30 minutes to nine minutes."

The combination of FlowMotion and Oncofeeze gives medical center physicians the highest quality scans in the shortest time of anywhere in the region.

OncoFreeze reduces the "noise" or interference on the scan from the body's natural movement, like heartbeat and breathing.

What Does This Mean for Harold (and Other Cancer Patients)?

For Harold, the shorter scan time meant not having to stay in the imaging system for longer than necessary, allowing him to get back to teaching and playing with his grandson. The improved image quality from the new scanner led his physician, Joseph Kelley, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology, to discover the spot on his lung. That spot may have been missed without motion correction imaging.

And Harold isn't alone. Now that the scans are so fast, the techs have time to do more of them. That means all of the medical center's cancer patients who receive a PET/CT scan have access to the Oncofreeze technology and motion-free images.

Cancers like Harold's, which might not have been detected in a traditional scan, now can be caught and treated early. And the physicians who read them have clearer scans than ever before, which means better diagnoses and even more customized treatment for cancer patients.

Kelley said, "Very few hospitals in the world have access to this world-class scanner. We're incredibly fortunate."

Harold is grateful for this topline scanner, too. "Without OncoFreeze, the cancer would have been more progressed and I might not be alive today."