Combining Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Optical Tomography into a singular imaging method promises to increase the accuracy of non-invasive breast-cancer imaging. Developed at Stoney Brook University in the 1970s, MRI imaging uses powerful magnetic fields to quickly create both 2D images and 3D models of body structures. In contrast, optical tomography uses lasers to collect boundary data from a variety of positions in tissues. In optical tomography, this boundary data is then mathematically reconstructed to create an image. By combining the high-resolution images provided by MRI and the lower resolution data sets collected through Optical Tomography, a more detailed tissue model is created.
The technology used in this combined method of non-invasive cancer imaging was developed primarily by Dartmouth graduate students: Ben Brooksby successfully integrated an MRI imaging machine with an optical tomography system built by Professor Shudong Jiang, Collin Carpenter improved upon Brooksby’s methods and added 3D imaging to the system, and Michael Mastanduno combined these two imaging systems into a clinical machine. Currently, Mastanduno is working on a study that will justify the combined imaging approach and allow this technology to be used in a clinical setting. While research on this combined approach to breast-cancer imaging is being conducted at two other schools, Dartmouth is the only research institution that is testing this technology on patients.
Though a number of pre-clinical trials have been conducted at Dartmouth, Mastanduno and Jiang are traveling to Xijing Military Hospital in Xi’an, China to finish testing the machine. In Xi’an, Mastanduno will have the opportunity to examine a larger number of cancer patients than he is able to in Hanover due to the city’s large population.
The detailed models created by this combined approach to breast-cancer imaging promises to decrease the number of false positives and unnecessary biopsy scans once it is approved for clinical use.