In February 2012, the Lawson Health Research Institute received the first hybrid imaging scanner in Canada that combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). The Siemens Biograph mMR joins these two powerful three-dimensional imaging methods into one simultaneous unit to make possible new diagnostic tools for the early detection and treatment of Canada’s major health challenges – heart failure, cognitive impairment, cancer, stroke, neuropsychiatric disorders. The PET/MRI connects Lawson with a small network of elite molecular imaging research centres throughout the world that have this same scanner and opens the doors to international collaboration. In partnership with Siemens, Lawson scientists are developing new PET/MRI software and hardware to quantify the true burden of disease, both prior to and following treatment.

A key resource in delivery of PET/MRI services is the Lawson Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry Facility, which develops and manufactures radiopharmaceuticals (probes) for clinical PET scans, including FDG and other PET probes. An in-wall system routes the probes from the cyclotron facility directly to the PET/MRI. Additional radiopharmaceuticals are being developed to meet the needs of London’s research programs to enhance patient care.



The advantages of hybrid PET/MR imaging are considerable:

The simultaneous image capture of the PET and MRI scans eliminates potential imaging problems caused by involuntary patient movement, such as breathing, beating of the heart and muscle relaxation

  • The MRI scanner provides improved imaging of soft tissues compared to CT
  • When used for anatomical imaging, the radiation dose for patients is significantly less than that of PET/CT
  • The combined scanner reduces the overall procedure time and the need for patients to return for multiple visits
  • Patients can be diagnosed more quickly and accurately since the imaging and overall information available from the scan is superior and more detailed compared to other methods
  • The scanner’s non-invasive imaging can replace more expensive, complex and  riskier invasive diagnostic techniques (e.g. biopsies, exploratory surgery)
  • Earlier detection of specific markers of disease through PET/MRI can open the door to more treatment options for patients. 

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