ANZSNM Special Edition – A day in the life of a clinical imaging specialist at our Imaging Research Organisation
In the lead-up to the 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine, May 26-28, Adelaide, we spoke with Katrina Devitt, Clinical Imaging Specialist, GenesisCare Imaging Research Organisation (IRO), to learn more about her role leading the imaging services for our oncology and theranostics research program. GenesisCare’s IRO specialises in the provision of comprehensive imaging services to support oncology and theranostics research. You can learn more about our IRO by stopping by our booth (#2) during ANZSNM ASM and chatting with our expert team.
Q: Katrina, can you tell us a bit about your career background and what sparked your initial interest in nuclear medicine?
I first became interested in the medical imaging field in Year 10. I looked into the different options when I was applying for university and nuclear medicine excited me the most. Working in an area that is constantly evolving, with new technologies and techniques being developed all the time, meant that I could continually learn and grow, which was really appealing to me. When I finished my degree at the University of Sydney, I was concerned about landing my first job as there was a significant nuclear medicine job shortage at the time (how times have changed!) I thought it would take months and months to get a job but I managed to obtain part-time work at a large public hospital around the time of my graduation ceremony and it became full-time work within six months!
I’ve never looked back! I learnt a lot in my first role and had so many opportunities to grow and evolve over the next five and a half years. Diagnostic nuclear medicine, PET/CT, theranostics, to name a few. There were constantly new scans and new radiopharmaceuticals being developed, as well as the rare older scans that would keep popping up. It was, and still is, a fantastic team.
In 2017 I moved onto a busy private practice, establishing their PET/CT service, as well as setting up their theranostics service. It was here I was introduced to the more operational side of research. It piqued my interest and I became really interested in how clinical trials were developed and the people that were involved along the way. When I saw the GenesisCare role advertised I jumped at the chance to learn more.
Q. Can you tell us about what a day in the life look like for a clinical imaging specialist at GenesisCare’s IRO? What are some of the core services you provide to customers?
Theranostics is a rapidly evolving area of medicine, and no two days are the same, which is one of the things I love most about my career.
During the start-up phase of a trial, my role involves reviewing study protocols, identifying imaging requirements, and creating the trial’s imaging manual.
Another key aspect of my role during the start-up period is training research site staff on how to perform imaging for the study and helping them set up their scanners to ensure they are trial-ready.
Once a research site is activated and the trial enters the recruitment phase, our team manages all of the imaging data – collecting, quality checking, and storing images to ensure they are accurate and archived.
Through our central reading service, we perform central read activities, training readers, preparing images, and ensuring everyone adheres to the study protocol. We also perform image contouring to enable radiation dosimetry calculation by IRO physicists.
Q: Since joining GenesisCare, you’ve moved into supporting clinical research theranostics studies. Why is your background so critical in nuclear medicine research?
Our core IRO team work in close partnership with research sites on all of the imaging aspects of a study. Being able to relate to the sites and patients involved in the studies is so important, and I think my in-clinic background in nuclear medicine has really helped me in building rapport and close working relationships with sites. Being able to foresee and account for the practical challenges that research sites face, manage roadblocks, and also empathise and support site staff, are all really important aspects of my role. My in-clinic experience also allows me to understand imaging techniques, which is useful when designing imaging protocols and manuals.
I can envision how procedures may be performed and advise on what may or may not work.
Q. Can you tell us about some recent projects you have worked on?
I have worked on several research projects since joining GenesisCare, predominantly Phase I studies, however I’ve also led the imaging components of Phase II and Phase III trials.
A recent project I have been working on is supporting our newly established IRO team in the US on the study protocol and imaging manual for the CARE study. CARE is a Phase III randomised study assessing the combination of darolutamide with radium-223 or placebo, and is being led by our Contract Research Organisation (CRO) and Sponsor Unit in the US, along with Principal Investigator, Neal Shore, MD, FACS. It has been fantastic being able to collaborate with our US team on the project and I’m excited to see it go live over the coming months!
Q. What excites you most about our pipeline of theranostics studies within the CRO and IRO at GenesisCare?
Even over the course of my own career, we have seen such significant developments in radiopharmaceuticals, both from an imaging and therapeutic standpoint. It has been so rewarding seeing the impact of new therapies on the quality of life of patients, offering new hope to a group of patients who have often exhausted all other treatment options.
For me personally, I really enjoy seeing, and being involved in, the development of a clinical trial, from the pre-clinical research, through to the study protocol and then study implementation. It has been amazing to see some of these novel therapies approved by the FDA in the US and the TGA here in Australia. You can really sense the building momentum in theranostics globally, with so many new companies investing in research in this area of medicine.
Q. What are you most proud of from your time at GenesisCare’s IRO?
I am probably most proud of the steep learning curve I’ve been on and embraced, and all the new skills I have acquired along the way. The world of clinical trials is amazing, particularly theranostics research, and each day holds something new and exciting. I have a new understanding and appreciation for the hard work that goes into research. There is a true partnership and shared commitment to advancing medicine amongst the teams collaborating on clinical trials.
Q. What would your message be to nuclear medicine technologists who are considering moving into clinical research? Why is it rewarding?
Moving into research has really shown me the bigger picture, where all my hard work as a technologist is going towards! It is amazing to see radiopharmaceuticals progress from an idea into a potentially life-changing treatment.
Working in research has really given me a deeper appreciation of the hard work of every team member and all the different cross-functional teams that work together to ensure the study runs smoothly. There are so many players involved in every trial; from the patient having the bravery to enrol in the trial, the patient’s family member ensuring they arrive at every appointment on time, to all the research coordinators and technologists on the ground ensuring the study runs smoothly and the study protocol is adhered to, through to the CEO of the pharmaceutical company keeping everyone to a timeline.