Professor Dr. Frank M. Bengel is an internationally recognized expert in the field of nuclear medicine and a pioneer in advanced techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) and molecular imaging. After prior faculty appointments at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, and at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, he accepted an offer by Hannover Medical School and started his term as the Chairman of the Department of Nuclear Medicine in January 2011. Under his new leadership, the longstanding tradition and internationally renowned expertise of the department is continued, and it will be steadily enriched with the latest molecular imaging technology.
Professor Bengel’s research focus is on the development of new imaging biomarkers, on the integration of anatomy and function by novel hybrid imaging technology, and on the development of high-end diagnostic tests for early disease detection and for the individual guidance of treatment. He has a special interest in imaging of the cardiovascular system, and he is best known for translating his research results rapidly into high quality clinical services.
His work has been published in numerous articles in leading scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, and the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. He is on the editorial board of 4 of the 7 highest ranked medical imaging journals, and he has served as a consultant and reviewer to the German Research Foundation, the US National Institutes of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, and various professional societies and industry partners.
The goal of nuclear medicine is to detect (or treat) a disease as early and as efficiently as possible, by making use of a radioactively labeled agent (a tracer), which targets a molecular mechanism involved in the disease. The body’s own biomechanisms are used to achieve a high accumulation of the tracer in the target region, while it is cleared from the rest of the body. This results in a very high sensitivity and a very low frequency of unwanted effects.
For this purpose, the Department of Nuclear Medicine is equipped with a broad spectrum of state-of-the-art imaging technology for functional and molecular diagnostics, including high-end multi-modality systems such as PET/CT and SPECT/CT, and including a cyclotron and radiochemistry lab for in-house production of specific targeted tracers. The department interacts closely with other imaging departments and clinical partners at MHH in order to provide the best possible diagnostic information, tailored to the individual patient’s and referring physician’s needs.
It also has a longstanding expertise in therapy with radionuclides. It offers outpatient and inpatient services for thyroid disease and other diseases amenable to radionuclide treatment. Clinical decisions are carefully made in an open, interdisciplinary environment, through close interaction with surgeons, oncologists and endocrinologists.
Specific areas of clinical expertise of the Department of Nuclear Medicine include:
Historically, the Department of Nuclear Medicine at Hannover Medical School has been pioneering the development of positron emission tomography (PET) and radionuclide therapy in Germany and Europe. It has been among the first departments to introduce biologic imaging techniques for early tumor detection, characterization of neurologic and cardiovascular disease, and tracking of labeled cells. Additionally, it has been among the first centers to apply radiopeptides for targeted diagnosis and treatment of neuroendocrine tumors. These successful research efforts have constantly nurtured the clinical portfolio of the department.
More recent scientific work is focusing on novel probes of molecular pathways involved in inflammation, cell trafficking, protein expression and cell-cell interaction. The goal of these efforts is to identify specific markers of disease progression and response to novel therapies that are under investigation in its own and other labs at MHH. Extensive laboratory space, and experimental imaging facilities are available for this purpose.
Furthermore, the department remains an important center for the production of radionuclides. It is, e.g., the only production site in Germany for the alpha-particle emitter astatine-211. Whether this nuclide may be used for superior targeted tumor treatment due to its high energy transfer and very short penetration depth, is a question that is currently being investigated.
In its research efforts, the Department is networking with various local, regional, national and international academic partners. The work is funded by German and European governmental grants, as well as industry support.