Zerhouni Nominated to Lead the National Institutes of Health

Elias Zerhouni, MD

Elias Zerhouni, MD, has been nominated to head the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Washington, DC.

The White House announced in late March that Zerhouni, executive vice dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chairman of radiology, has been chosen by President Bush as the next director of NIH, the biomedical research agency that has been placed in charge of developing vaccines and treatments against possible bioterror agents.

If he is confirmed by the Senate, Zerhouni would take over the reins under somewhat controversial circumstances: specifically, his implied agreement with Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, which has sparked some protest from scientists who expect NIH to function independently.

Zerhouni also has come under attack by a right-to-life organization that objects to Zerhouni’s role in the creation of Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering, engaged in extending the university’s work in embryonic stem cell research to the less controversial adult stem cells.

However, support for Zerhouni appears solid in the medical community. “President Bush has chosen a strong leader to be the next director of the NIH,” said Jordan J. Cohen, MD, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. “Dr Zerhouni is a leader in his field and has proven to be a gifted research administrator.”

NIH has been without a director since Harold E. Varmus, MD, stepped down in 1999. Several other prominent scientists left in his wake, and one of Zerhouni’s charges would be to refill those holes.

Gene Therapy Receives Patent

An experimental gene therapy to prevent restenosis following angioplasty has received a US patent.

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering developed the therapy, which was shown to reduce the formation of clogged arteries by more than one half in large animal models.

The technique uses RasN17, a negative mutant of RAS that blocks the signaling pathway. The school’s scientists have tested the therapy in pigs, because the porcine cardiovascular system is similar to that of humans.

Privacy Rule Reconsidered

The Bush administration has proposed dropping a requirement regarding privacy protection of medical records.

The rule required that doctors and hospitals obtain consent from patients before using or disclosing medical information for the purpose of treatment or reimbursement. The rules had been issued by former President Clinton in December 2000.

The proposal will be in the Federal Register for the entire month of April, after which the government will consider public comments and then issue a final ruling.

ACR Launches CT Accreditation

The American College of Radiology (ACR), Reston, Va, has launched a Computed Tomography (CT) Accreditation Program for radiologists.

The voluntary peer review process, conducted by board-certified radiologists and medical physicists, provides an opportunity for peer review and education as well as evaluation of facility practices based on an objective assessment of an imaging facility.

“There is a great interest in the market right now for this program,” says Krista Bush, program manager. “The program educates facilities on achieving optimal image quality while maintaining the lowest possible dose, particularly in children.”

ACR also currently has accreditation programs in ultrasound, breast ultrasound, stereotactic breast biopsy, radiation oncology, MRI, and nuclear medicine.

Positioning Improves Detection

A new study by the Center Health Studies at Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, says that patient positioning may have more of an impact in detecting breast cancer than other measures of clinical image quality, such as breast compression, radiation exposure, and sharpness and contrast of the mammogram.

The study, conducted by the center’s senior investigator, Stephen H. Taplin, MD, included 152 women with breast cancer that was diagnosed within 2 years of a negative screening mammogram.

Industry News

Researchers found that missed cancers were more than twice as likely to be associated with films that had deficient positioning; 43% of the films had deficient positioning.

GE Medical Systems, Waukesha, Wis, has been awarded three health care technology leadership awards by industry research firm Frost & Sullivan. The awards are “Diagnostic Imaging Company of the Year,” “Imaging Technology of the Year,” and “Technology Innovation of the Year.” The research organization also named Siemens Medical Solutions President and CEO Thomas N. McCausland as its “CEO of the Year.” Wuestec, San Antonio, received the research firm’s Market Engineering Award for Pricing Strategy…Planar Systems, Beaverton, Ore, has signed an agreement to acquire DOME Imaging Systems, Waltham, Mass. DOME’s display systems for diagnostic imaging will augment Planar’s line of medical-grade display and workstation systems…Fischer Imaging, Denver, announced that Louis E. Rivelli, the company’s CEO, has been nominated for the second consecutive year as a candidate in Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” program…Dunlee, Aurora, Ill, has acquired the Richardson Electronics/TubeMaster glassware business…Swissray International, Elmsford, NY, announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Elscint Ltd for fraud, breach of contract, and other claims related to two distribution agreements executed in August 1998…GE Medical Systems, Milwaukee, has acquired ViewPoint Bildverarbeitung GmbH, Munich, Germany, a provider of documentation, image management, and reporting software for medical diagnostic imaging…Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc, Cincinnati, has launched a new web site, www.breastbiopsy.com , to provide women, their families, and health professionals with information on mammography.


Several authors were not cited for their work on the article, “The Female Pelvis: A Wide Variety of Interventional Radiologic Procedures Are Useful in Treating Gynecologic Diseases,” in the March 2002 issue of Decisions in Axis Imaging News. The following authors also contributed to the article: Gerhard Wittich, MD, director of interventional radiology, Bay Shore Medical Center, Pasadena, Tex; Brian Goodacre, MD, Victoria General Hospital, Victoria, Canada; and Stuart Silverman, MD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston. We regret this error.