Day: 25 April 2018
Precision without radiation. Researchers at FIT are developing a device which could replace the mammography device
Precision without radiation. Such is the goal for the new breast imaging device which is now being developed by researchers at the Faculty of Information Technology at BUT together with other European scientists. In the future, the new 3D imaging technology could replace the current ultrasonic and x-ray based mammography devices.
Breast cancer is the most common kind of malignant growth in women - every year, it brings over one and a half million patients to oncological centres all over the world and about seven thousand patients in the Czech Republic alone. Today, breast cancer can be successfully treated - provided that the physicians are able to diagnose it correctly and in time.
This is what project PAMMOTH aims to achieve. The researchers at the Faculty of Information Technology of BUT are working on the project in collaboration with eight other European research institutions. Together they are developing a device capable of non-invasive photoacoustic breast imaging allowing for a better and timely detection of tumours.
The end of false alarms
"Unlike x-ray mammography and common ultrasound imaging, the system is able to identify the type of tissue and describe its oxygen and nutrient supply. This allows the system to find cysts, calcification and other pathological conditions which may develop into cancerous growth and which the current technology could either overlook or misdiagnose. The resolution of the 3D images obtained is also many times higher. This should make diagnostics significantly more precise and allow physicians to discover tumours much earlier," explains Jiří Jaroš who is in charge of FIT's team.
This bowl-shaped device with a diameter of 25 cm rotates around the patient's breast. Once every tenth of a second the device uses a battery of lasers to illuminate the breast tissue and record the resulting pressure wave using 512 ultrasonic sensors | Photo: Jiří Jaroš's archive
Higher precision of the diagnostic method will also decrease the false positive rate, which is currently as high as 75%. This results in women undergoing further examination, including tissue sampling through biopsy. Unlike the mammography device, the system does not use radiation or contrast agents. Since these can be harmful, their use increases the requirements on the overall medical condition of the patient. The use of the imaging device causes no pain and significantly less discomfort to patients than ordinary mammography imagers.
Speed of data collection? Like internet connection for 100 households
Within the international project PAMMOTH the research team of Jiří Jaroš is responsible for collection, processing and evaluation of data from the photoacoustic imaging device. This bowl-shaped device with a diameter of 25 cm rotates around the patient's breast. Once every tenth of a second the device uses a battery of lasers to illuminate the breast tissue and record the resulting pressure wave using 512 ultrasonic sensors. The researchers at FIT then have to capture the data, perform a rough analysis and provide the clinical staff with a preview. All of that takes place at a data collection speed approaching 10 Gb per second, which would be enough to provide internet connection for 100 households.
The data collected by the research team in Brno is then further processed in the IT4Innovations supercomputer centre in Ostrava. In the centre, hundreds of supercomputers work on reconstructing the image of the tissue into a three dimensional image. The team from the Faculty of Information Technology must then be able to deliver the resulting image within 48 hours of the imaging.
"When the reconstruction is complete, the physician receives a three dimensional image of the breast highlighting individual types of tissue, vascularity, blood oxygenation, calcification and cysts. The physician is free to move around inside the model, rotate it and zoom in up to the resolution of 0.5 mm per picture element," said Jiří Jaroš.
Unique combination of two technologies
Project PAMMOTH combines two non-invasive imaging methods - ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging. This allows the system to evaluate various properties of the tissue, e.g. its density, rigidity or oxygenation. Ultrasound mammography provides information on the anatomy of the breast and creates a map of the tissue. Photoacoustic mammography then uses laser, which is absorbed in blood vessels with higher concentration of oxygenated blood; this allows it to identify tissues with high blood flow which indicate cancerous growth.
The data collected from patients by the research team in Brno is then further processed in the IT4Innovations supercomputer centre in Ostrava. In the centre, hundreds of supercomputers work on reconstructing the image of the tissue into a three dimensional image | Photo: IT4Innovations archive
The researchers are currently working on a prototype of the device and testing the technology on various simulations and artificial breast samples. A pilot study with human patients should commence next year - the researchers at FIT will be processing data from patients in Twente, Netherlands. In the future, the method may also be used to diagnose cancer in the abdominal cavity, e.g. the liver, kidneys or pancreas.
Over EUR 5 million
Project PAMMOTH is worth more than EUR 5 million, which is over CZK 127 million, and falls under the European Union Horizon 2020 programme. 6 researchers from the Faculty of Information Technology are currently working on the project. Apart from BUT, the project employs 70 more workers from 3 universities - a university in London (UCL), Bern (UB) and Twente (UT), and 5 industry partners - Imasonic (ultrasonic detectors), EXPLA (laser), PA Imaging (assembling the device), Medisch Spectrum Twente (clinical trials) and TP21 (management).
Author: Kozubová Hana, Mgr.
Last modified: 2020-06-26T15:22:36