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The Harvey L. Neiman Molecular Imaging Fund honors the legacy of a medical visionary who dedicated his professional life to improving patient care
During his tenure at the helm of the ACR, Harvey L. Neiman, MD, FACR, guided the College to become one of the world’s largest and most influential medical specialty societies.
Prior to his death in 2014, Neiman expressed his belief that molecular imaging would be the next advance in radiology. Today, the Harvey L. Neiman Molecular Imaging Fund is helping to transform that vision into reality.
“It was Dr. Neiman’s inspiration to establish an ACR commission on molecular imaging,” says James H. Thrall, MD, FACR, former chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, chair emeritus of the department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. “Dr. Neiman understood the potential significance of molecular imaging before it became a catchphrase in the medical community.” Neiman tapped Thrall to head up the first ACR commission on molecular imaging, which later became part of the ACR Commission on Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
To continue Neiman’s focus on the future, the ACR Foundation established the Harvey L. Neiman Molecular Imaging Fund to support researchers advancing the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, neurological and cardiovascular diseases, and other serious illnesses.
Coming of Age
Today molecular imaging is playing an increasingly important role in patient care, medical research, and pharmaceutical development. “We live in the era of molecular medicine,” says Thrall. “Medicine of antiquity had to do with the gross observation of the outside of the human body. Today molecular imaging is a way to understand the human organism at a molecular level.”
Ultimately, he says, the nano-scale is where radiology researchers should be focused, because this is where the earliest changes that lead to the development of a disease or condition occur. “If you have to wait until changes are manifest on gross anatomy imaging, in many cases you are already too late to initiate effective therapy,” says Thrall. “The closer we can get to the origins of disease in our diagnostic imaging methods, the more value we’ll bring to the care of our patients.”
Carolyn C. Meltzer, MD, FACR, the William P. Timmie Professor and Chair of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and former member of the ACR Board of Chancellors, agrees. “Diagnostic radiology is a highly descriptive, structurally driven field that looks at a cross section of the appearance of organs and describes disease processes,” she says. “Molecular imaging allows us to look beneath the anatomic structures to see the function of tissues, normal and not normal. It is the molecular makeup that is the strongest opportunity for specifically targeted and anatomically effective treatment.”
In the ACR 2015 Moreton Lecture about imaging in the age of precision medicine, Thrall indicated that precision medicine or personalized medicine is broadly defined as the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient.1 This process entails classifying patients into subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease, in the biology or prognosis of those diseases they may develop, or in their response to a specific treatment. “Imaging is poised to play major roles in the age of precision medicine,” he says. “The imaging community needs to think in terms of how imaging surveillance of patients with known genetic mutations can contribute to the concept.”
According to Meltzer, “Precision medicine is the future of radiology. The way we practice now is often about treating people as if they will all react similarly to treatment. The overarching vision for how we’ll practice medicine going forward is by understanding each individual’s genetic and chemical makeup, as well as other unique factors that might lead to better disease identification and targeting with specific therapeutics. For radiology, this is an exciting, promising field. Every day, there are new technologies, imaging agents, and specific molecular biomarkers and nano-particles that we can leverage to diagnose and treat each patient at the cellular level.”
Seeding the Future
Where will the next advances in molecular imaging take root and begin to grow? Bruce J. Hillman, MD, FACR, founder and past chair of the ACR Imaging Network (ACRIN), believes that the future of the specialty lies with young radiology researchers. “A primary goal of the fund is to provide seed money for young investigators who have an idea and are looking for proof of concept. It’s important to offer small grants to new investigators who want to build a scientific case, which helps them attain comprehensive funding for broader research,” he says.
“The Neiman Fund helps young investigators get started with a place to begin bench research that can be translated into clinical trials and, ultimately, clinical practice,” says Meltzer. “The focus of this fund is to inspire and fund young investigators in the field of molecular imaging. To do this promising work, it’s important to have clinical radiologists involved along with molecular scientists and chemists.”
Thrall emphasizes that the ACR Foundation plays a key role in the competitiveness of the specialty and supporting younger investigators. “There are so many opportunities to keep the radiology specialty strong,” he said. “We need to capitalize on these areas to remain on the cutting edge, and one of the ways to do that is to support the Neiman Fund.”
Donate Today: A contribution to the ACR Foundation directed to the Harvey L. Neiman Moleculra Imaging Fund represents an opportunity to honor the legacy of Harvey L. Neiman, MD, FACR, and contribute to the future of the radiology specialty in molecular imaging. Learn more and support the ACR Foundation.