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Long-term effects of radiopharmaceuticals

Low-level radioactive substances are used in medicine for diagnosing cancer, among other things. Progress in this area is the objective of a European project coordinated at the university hospital in Würzburg.

Are there cancer cells in the thyroid? Have metastases detached themselves from a tumor and moved elsewhere in the body?

Diagnostic questions such as these can be answered by nuclear physicians using low-level, short-lived radioactive substances. These so-called radiopharmaceuticals spread throughout the organism in a unique fashion and accumulate in large numbers in cancer cells, for example. Their radioactive signal can be measured, thereby revealing the location of tumor cells.

Now in Europe for the first time the basic scientific principles for all permitted radiopharmaceuticals will be systematically presented and assessed – as part of the PEDDOSE.NET project. The European Commission is providing EUR 500,000 in funding.

Goals of the project

One of the goals is to describe current knowledge relating to any effects of low-level radioactive pharmaceuticals on health. The focus is on substances administered to children and young people for diagnostic purposes. Within the project, the scientists will collate and assess data on anticipated exposure to radiation and any associated risks. They then aim to recommend how these data should be collated in the development of new radiopharmaceuticals.

A further goal for PEDDOSE.NET is to devise recommendations and guidelines in order to drive scientific and technological innovations. For example, the scientists believe that it will be possible in future to administer radiopharmaceuticals in even smaller doses, thereby further reducing the hypothetical risk to patients.

Another of the project’s goals is to identify any areas in which further clinical studies may be required. On every issue the scientists will collaborate with the authorities responsible for approving new substances.

Results expected in fall 2011

It is expected that the project will be completed in fall 2011. Its results should further improve radiation protection for patients and make the use of nuclear-medical examinations even more targeted than it is now.

Partners involved in the project

Five partner institutes from four European countries are involved in PEDDOSE.NET; the scientific coordinator is Professor Michael Laßmann, chief physicist at the Department of Nuclear Medicine of the University of Würzburg.

The project is being coordinated by the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research (EIBIR) in Vienna. It has the support of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM). The project consortium is made up of members of the EANM Dosimetry Committee and experts from the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

Homepage of the PEDDOSE.NET project:


Prof. Dr. Michael Laßmann, Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 201-35500,

Robert Emmerich | idw
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