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Lab Report: Clearer Cancer Imaging

Aug 01, 2020   |   by Julie Bonette   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Professors Paul Meaney and Keith Paulsen, with partners at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, received a $3 million grant, to develop a multi-modal breast imaging platform to reduce unnecessary biopsies.

A team of researchers spearheaded by Dartmouth engineers is trying to minimize unnecessary breast biopsies, as most people who undergo biopsies do not have cancer. Their proposed technique combines two commonly used methods and may streamline the diagnostic process by providing substantially clearer imaging—and more accurate diagnoses—for doctors.

The Academic-Industry Partnership (AIP) recently received a $3-million grant from the National Cancer Institute to pursue the development of a multi-modal breast imaging platform that simultaneously uses microwave and magnetic resonance imaging, a first in the field.

“An MRI by itself produces very high-resolution images, but weak specificity, meaning it’s hard to determine if a suspicious area is malignant,” says Professor Paul Meaney Th’95, a multi-principal investigator (PI). “Microwave imaging provides images with remarkable specificity but suffers from poor resolution. The idea is to combine the two methods to get a more accurate rendering of the tumor or lesion zone, but it’s very difficult to do.”

The approach could also eliminate the need for gadolinium, a contrast agent commonly used in MRIs that has come under scrutiny by the FDA for remaining in patients’ bodies, including their brains, sometimes for years.

The Dartmouth team includes Keith Paulsen Th’84 Th’86, the Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and experts at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. It has already performed successful experiments for proof of concept and plans to improve prototypes and complete clinical trials during the five-year grant period.

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