WHO Collaborating Center for Imaging - Radiotherapy

WHO Collaborating Center for Imaging and Radiotherapy

As a designated WHO Collaborating Center for Imaging and Radiotherapy, the Research Program “Radiological Diagnostics and Therapy” of DKFZ is part of a international network of collaboration partners.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has assigned the following tasks to the WHO Center for Imaging and Radiotherapy:

  • Collecting and exchanging information about nuclear-medical developments;
  • Analyzing the performance of new nuclear-medical technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) tomography;
  • Evaluating the diagnostic relevance of nuclear-medical techniques compared to novel diagnostic methods such as ultrasound, computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR);
  • Identifying areas of diagnostics and radiotherapy in which it is possible to substitute nuclear-medical for non-ionizing methods;
  • Composing diagnostic processes, especially for diseases that are frequent in developing countries;
  • Assessing the diagnostic value of non-imaging information systems based on radionuclides for diagnostics and radiotherapy planning; comparisons with other diagnostic methods;
  • Imparting techniques of handling radioisotopes;
  • Instructing staff in hospitals and research institutes on the correct medical use of radionuclides and the required technical equipment;
  • Recommendations on dosage and quality control of radiopharmaceuticals;
  • Elaborating guidelines for the training and continuing education of hospital staff, including radiation protection instruction;
  • Sharing and exchanging information about the use of radioisotopes in cancer diagnosis and therapy;
  • Producing and utilizing short-lived radioisotopes for medical purposes.

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive drugs (radiopharmaceuticals) to diagnose and treat disease. The radioactive particles (radioisotopes, also called radionuclides) used in nuclear medicine have a very short half-life, i.e. their radioactivity decays within hours or days. During decay the particles emit gamma radiation which can be detected with special tools (gamma cameras) and used for diagnostic purposes. Usually the radioisotope is coupled to a specific molecule that is taken up preferentially by a specific cell type. Thus, the administered radioisotopes travel via the bloodstream, the intestinal tract, or the respiratory air specifically to the organs or tissues to be examined and accumulate there. For example, positron emission tomography (PET) in cancer diagnostics uses the fact that cancer cells need more glucose than normal cells. Coupled to glucose molecules, the commonly used radioisotope fluorine-18 accumulates in cancer cells and thus reveals tumors in the tissue.


Prof. Dr. Dr. Wolfhard Semmler
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Division of Medical Physics in Radiology
Phone: +49 (0)6221-42-2550
Fax: -2613


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