Peter S. Conti, MD, PhD, receives 2020 Benedict Cassen Prize for Cancer Imaging Research


University of Southern California physician honored for his pioneering work in radiopharmaceuticals and clinical PET


Credit: SNMMI

Peter S. Conti, MD, PhD, known for his pioneering work in the diagnosis and management of cancer, was awarded the Benedict Cassen Prize during the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI). The honor is awarded every two years by the Education and Research Foundation (ERF) for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in recognition of outstanding achievement and work leading to a major advance in nuclear medicine science.

“The Cassen Prize Committee selected Peter Conti as the 2020 recipient in recognition of his pioneering work in the development of novel radiopharmaceuticals and clinical PET applications for cancer imaging, as well as his volunteerism and service to the molecular imaging community,” said ERF President Frances K. Keech, DHSc, RT(N), FSNMMI-TS.

During a special plenary session at SNMMI’s Annual Meeting, Conti presented the Cassen Lectureship on “Molecular Imaging in 2020 and Beyond: Expect the Unexpected.” He discussed insights into the potential role of molecular imaging of viral infection, relevant to the current COVID-19 crisis, along with an overview spanning his 40-plus years of work in the cancer imaging field, from the early development of radiolabeled analogues of nucleosides and amino acids to more recent work using bifunctional chelation technologies, drug conjugates and companion diagnostics, as well as multimodality imaging agents.

Conti commented, “It is an honor to be recognized by the Cassen Committee of the Education and Research Foundation and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. It is a privilege to be considered a member of this elite group of scientists who have contributed so much to the field. I want to thank all my U.S. and international collaborators, colleagues, mentors, students, friends and family whose support and inspiration made this possible.”

Conti is a tenured professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, with academic appointments in the departments of radiology, biomedical engineering, and pharmaceutical sciences, and has been the director of the USC PET Imaging Science Center since its inception in 1991. He received his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York, NY. His doctorate in biophysics was completed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is board certified in both nuclear medicine (ABNM) and diagnostic radiology (ABR) and is a Fellow of both the American College of Radiology and the American College of Nuclear Medicine.

Conti has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers in the field of molecular imaging, many of which focused on the development of novel PET and hybrid imaging agents for diagnostic and theranostic applications in cancer and other diseases. He is the 2016 recipient of the SNMMI Paul C. Aebersold Award for his achievements in the basic science of nuclear medicine, and he received the SNMMI 2018 Peter Valk Award for his pioneering work in clinical PET.

The Cassen Prize honors Benedict Cassen, whose invention of the rectilinear radioisotope scanner–the first instrument capable of making an image of radiotracer distribution in body organs of living patients–was seminal to the development of clinical nuclear medicine. Conti is the 15th individual since 1994 to receive the prestigious $25,000 award from the Education and Research Foundation for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.


About the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to advancing nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, a vital element of today’s medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated and helping provide patients with the best health care possible.

SNMMI’s members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings, and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit

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