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The International Myeloma Foundation Says Medicare Decision to Cover PET Scans Can Improve Disease Staging and Treatment Planning
04.06.09

PET Scans in Myeloma Seen as both a Medical Advance and Cost-Saving Decision–

North Hollywood, CA– April 6, 2009 - The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF)—supporting research and providing education, advocacy and support for myeloma patients, families, researchers and physicians—today said the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover the use of positron emission tomography, PET scans, in multiple myeloma can significantly change the course of treatment for many patients. The case for using PET scans in multiple myeloma was published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine and presented to CMS by IMF chairman and medical director Brian G.M. Durie, M.D., with the support of Barry Siegel, M.D., co-chair of the National Oncologic PET Registry, a comprehensive national study of PET scans in cancer.

"With PET scans doctors can visualize the whole body to see the full extent of disease on initial diagnosis, follow the response to treatment more accurately, and better determine when further treatment is needed and when it is not," said Dr. Durie. "In the national demonstration project, the course of treatment for myeloma was changed almost half the time with the use of PET scans. That’s the highest impact for any cancers in the project."

Dr. Siegel added, "There are times when standard testing indicates patients are in complete remission, but with PET scans we can see that lesions, areas of cancer, are present, indicating that more or more aggressive treatment is required. Likewise, when we can be certain there is no detectable cancer, we can help patients avoid needless and expensive treatments. We are pleased to have contributed to this change in Medicare coverage."

PET scans utilize a sugar analogue that concentrates in cancer cells and emits a radioactive tracer that can be detected and located by the scan. Whole body PET scans can be used to detect unsuspected or new outbreaks of multiple myeloma both to aid in initial diagnosis and to assess ongoing treatment. PET scans have been approved for several cancers including breast, colon cancer and lymphoma. The new decision adds myeloma and ovarian cancer to the list.

"This is not only great news for patients, it is cost effective," said Michael Katz, vice president of the IMF. "PET scans can cover the entire body and in our experience with myeloma patients, depending on their insurance coverage, PET scans can cost significantly less than other imaging techniques such as CT or MRI and provide better information when used as whole body scans. We believe many private insurers will now follow this lead and with more widespread use, we believe the full potential of this important medical technology can be realized. The IMF is pleased to have played a leading role in encouraging this decision."

Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer of cells in the bone marrow that affects production of blood cells and can damage bone. Myeloma affects an estimated 750,000 people worldwide, and in industrialized countries it is being diagnosed in growing numbers and in increasingly younger people.

ABOUT the International Myeloma Foundation

The International Myeloma Foundation is the oldest and largest myeloma organization, reaching more than 185,000 members in 113 countries worldwide.
A 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients and their families, the IMF focuses in four key areas: research, education, support, and advocacy. To date, the IMF has conducted more than 200 educational seminars worldwide, maintains a world-renowned hotline, and operates Bank on a Cure®, a unique gene bank to advance myeloma research. The IMF can be reached at (800) 452-CURE. The global Website is www.myeloma.org.

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