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DTU develops breast cancer scanning equipment

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Posted April 8, 2019

DTU has entered into collaboration with the UK company Kromek aimed at developing a scanner that can improve breast cancer diagnostics.

Advanced technology developed for space research often has great potential in other fields. The new industrial research and development partnership between DTU Space and the UK company Kromek Group plc is a good example of this. Komek develops medical imaging equipment for use in hospitals, and the two partners are now working jointly to develop a completely new scanner type for screening of women for breast cancer.

DTU Space’s contribution to the scanner is an advanced and highly precise detector technology called 3D CZT, developed for space research. This technology can detect and characterize high-energy photons in the form of gamma radiation in space with pinpoint accuracy.

Photo: DTU Space/M.G. Andersen

Photo: DTU Space/M.G. Andersen

But the technology can also be applied in the field of medicine. Here it can be used to improve breast cancer scans in relation to conventional X-ray examinations.

“We’re pleased to be able to contribute to something as important as cancer diagnosis and the fight against cancer,” says Senior Researcher at DTU Space Irfan Kuvvetli, who is in charge of the work to develop the detector technology.

“The partnership with the industry shows the importance of our focus on constantly trying to develop new technology based on fundamental research, and that we are open to its potential applications in other fields than space research.”

Together with Kromek, DTU Space has received DKK 10 million for the project over two years under the EU-funded research and development programme Eurostars.

Capable of detecting very small and complicated cancer tumours
The scanner to be developed is called a 3D Molecular Breast Imager (3D MBI).

Small cancer tumours and their position in the breast can be identified more accurately, and the hope is to be able to diagnose breast cancer tumours far more accurately and securely than is currently the case.

With the existing equipment, there may be uncertainty about the detection of small tumours. This is especially the case for patients with high breast tissue density, and here a typical X-ray examination cannot distinguish precisely enough between the dense tissue and a tumour.

Based on technology for future space mission
DTU Space has already developed prototype detectors for space research purposes. These detectors include signal processing electronics as well as the special algorithms which are subsequently used to form very precise images based on the collected data.

The new project is based on this technology. And it looks so promising that Kromek itself contacted DTU, because the same principles can be used to detect cancer tumours.

“It’s exciting that space technology can be used in the healthcare sector. And through our collaboration with the industry, we’re looking forward to being able to supply equipment based on this technology for a high-energy space mission when this becomes relevant,” says Irfan Kuvvetli.

Source: DTU

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