Path A: Clinical Developments U.S. Institutions

Oak Ridge Associated Universities
Eleanor Roosevelt (center) and Dr. William Pollard watch as Nurse Mary Sutliff demonstrates a radiation counter during Roosevelt’s 1955 visit to the Oak Ridge cancer research hospital. (Photo by Ed Westcott)

Prior to WWII, the only institutions using nuclear tracers were those large institutions with cyclotrons. A chronological list of Cyclotrons in the different countries is heavily weighted to the post war period. Berkeley, Copenhagen, Rochester, Harvard, MIT, and Washington University cyclotrons were among the pre WWII sites. After the war, production facilities at the U.S. National labs and those associated with the Manhattan project were major sources of radionuclides for scientific uses.  The Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Science (ORINS) was a major training and biomedical research facility,  later becoming part of  the ORAU consortium. Many of the pioneering nuclear medicine physicians  were  trained at Oak Ridge, the University of Rochester (the lead biology and medicine lab for the Manhattan Project), UCLA, and UC Berkeley. Among the physician pioneers,  Stafford Warren, Louis Hempelman, Hymer Friedel, George Taplin, and Joe Ross were trained at Rochester.  Stafford Warren headed the Manhattan Project operational unit for Biology and Medicine, and later directed the nuclear research program at UCLA (an important early site along with UC, Berkeley). Shields Warren, Chief Pathologist at Harvard was chosen to serve as the Head of the Atomic Energy Commission. The University of Chicago, with Enrico Fermi and the metallurgical lab staff sustained major programs aided later by the nearby siting  of the Argonne National Lab (ANL). The National Labs were largely a continuation of the Manhattan  project sites (Hanford, LASL, ORNL). BNL, and ANL were formed later, and were multi purpose scientific labs. The University of Chicago  developed a strong biomedical program led by Leon Jacobson, that included Bob Beck, and Paul Harper starting in 1947 when Jacobson got AEC support  funds to build a  Hospital dedicated to nuclear-related biomedical research, named the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital (ACRH). It is there that second part of the Tc Story unfolds.

Tc Story: Part 2: In 1957, Tucker, Stang, and Richards invented the technetium-99m generator and in 1960, Brookhaven National Laboratory, included it in the BNL isotope catalog. In 1962, Paul Harper sat next to Jim Richards on a plane and Jim told him that Tc-99m should be a useful research tool as it combined unique radiation characteristics, a short half-life medium energy gamma ray and no associated beta emissions. Paul got the idea quickly and was the first person to order the generator from BNL. He wrote an ACRH note later that year highlighting its potential for medical uses. Part 3 of the Technetium story starts when he and his ACRH colleagues first developed and used Tc-sulfur colloid for liver, spleen and bone marrow [reticulo endothelial system (RES)] imaging. McAfee and the Hopkins group followed and in 1964  reported on their use of pertechnetate for brain scanning. Since that time, many different Tc-compounds have been developed and remain the most widely radioisotopes in medical use.

The I-131 story, like the Technetium story is fascinating and details were described earlier (Path A U.S. Developments) and will not be recounted here.

Progress in nuclear medicine increased and expanded beyond the pioneering institutions after WWII. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was formed in 1946 and sponsored programs at Universities led by prominent scientists. Berkeley (John Lawrence), UCLA (Stafford Warren), Harvard/MIT (Shields Warren MD, and Robley Evans PhD, later joined by Jim Adelstein), Rochester (Louis Hempelmann, and Newell Stannard), Memorial Hospital in, NY. (Rulon Rawson), Cleveland/Western Reserve (Hymer Friedell), and Washington University, St. Louis (Arthur Compton, and Carl Moore). Marshall Brucer started and led the program at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Science (ORINS) where they introduced 137Cs for radiation therapy, and disseminated phantoms for inter calibrating thyroid uptake measurement  systems among other pioneering activities. Brucer was a brilliant teacher, and many of his lectures are published by Mallinkrodt in a series of Vignettes. These  describe how and why tracer methods work and how they should be used and interpreted. Oak Ridge held a long series of important  Symposia, attended by people from many countries which advanced the field in the early days. This was aided by the IAEA which sponsored topical meetings at a critical time in the evolution of nuclear medicine. The Veterans Administration in the United States was an early and continuing sponsor of nuclear medicine in many of its hospitals, supplementing NIH and AEC support.

It is difficult to do justice to the history of contributions from the many important educational and commercial organizations. In an attempt to do so, we call attention to web pages they have posted.

Johns Hopkins.  Wagner: A Personal History
Link to google books for a copy of the book.

(Joint Program in Nuclear Medicine)

Rochester (Newell Stannard Program)
A collection of papers presented at a special session at the 48th annual meeting of the Health Physics Society in San Diego, California on July 22, 2003 in honor of Dr. J. Newell Stannard.

History of Nuclear Medicine: Society of Nuclear Medicine
Presented at UCLA during SNM 2009’s annual meeting provides an overview of nuclear medicine with pictures.

Bob Beck University of Chicago
This memoriam outlines the contributions of Robert N. Beck (1928-2008), a pioneer in the formulation of the theoretical basis for nuclear medicine imaging and applying these to the development of special instruments used to test new radioactive tracers. He retired as professor emeritus in the department of radiology at the University of Chicago. Beck Career Highlights were presented at a 2008 IEEE conference.

Paul Harper University of Chicago
This memoriam outlines the contributions of Paul V. Harper (1915-2005), a pioneer in the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of radiation and the development and testing of radiotracers in the early days of nuclear medicine. He retired as professor emeritus in the departments of surgery and radiology at the University of Chicago.


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