PET Imaging Pioneer, Louis Sokoloff, Brought Life to Industry that Saves Lives Every Day

With the recent passing of Dr. Louis Sokoloff, the nuclear imaging industry has lost an icon. Dr. Sokoloff, renowned as a pioneer in the use of PET in human brain research, died on July 30 in Washington. He was 93. 

Dr. Sokoloff’s life work was in developing techniques for measuring human brain function and diagnosing related disorders. In a breakthrough achievement, he and his team discovered means of using a radioactive analogue to glucose, which allowed them to develop images of brain activity using positron emission tomography (PET) scanners. 

According to the Lasker Foundation, which recognized Sokoloff for his work in 1981, what has become known as The Sokoloff Method was an “unprecedented achievement” that contributed to the basic understanding and diagnosis of brain diseases. By use of this technique, scientists can now pinpoint the precise spot and chemistry of an actual or incipient brain tumor or other abnormality, and so determine the course of optimal treatment. Sokoloff’s research was a precursor to subsequent strides that have been made in utilization of this modality, notably the increasing use of PET for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Sokoloff’s work was aided substantially by the development of radiopharmaceuticals in the late 1960s and into the 70s. Particularly important was the evolution of 2-deoxy-2-(18F)fluoro-D-glucose — commonly known as FDG — which is the glucose analog compounded with the positron-emitting radioactive isotope fluorine-18 used by Sokoloff and his team. 

Of course, those of us in the nuclear medicine industry continue to rely heavily on Fludeoxyglucose F18 (F18 FDG) in the practice of PET imaging — not only for scans of the brain, but also for heart, lung and tumor scanning. Decades following the pioneering discoveries of Dr. Sokoloff, the benefits of this powerful diagnostic tool remain substantial and growing. As with others in our industry, FDG remains the cornerstone radiopharmaceutical of Jubilant Radiopharma Radiopharmacies Division's PET manufacturing operations, which serve customers throughout the southeastern United States. 

Somehow it seems fitting that, in the same week that we recognize the contributions of a scientist who literally changed the way we look at the human brain, Jubilant Radiopharma Radiopharmacies Division announced approval by the FDA of our Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for Fludeoxyglucose F18, which is indicated for PET imaging in oncology, cardiology and neurology. In the excitement surrounding publication of the Jubilant Radiopharma Radiopharmacies Division-branded package insert for F18 FDG, we are reminded that we stand on the shoulders of giants. It is the work of pioneers such as Dr. Sokoloff who imbued our industry with the life-saving power that it has today. 

*To hear more about the work of Dr. Sokoloff in his own words, watch the Society for Neuroscience's History of Neuroscience Archival Interview video with this history-making scientist.