News | Breast Imaging | September 27, 2019

University of Arizona to Develop New CT-Based Breast Cancer Diagnostic Imaging Method

Research funded by $3.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute

University of Arizona to Develop New CT-Based Breast Cancer Diagnostic Imaging Method

September 27, 2019 — Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences are seeking a new and more accurate way to diagnose breast cancer and contribute to improved outcomes for patients worldwide.

The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded a $3.6 million, five-year R01 grant to advance the research of Andrew Karellas, Ph.D., DABR, FAAPM, FACR, and Srinivasan Vedantham, Ph.D., DABR, FAAPM, professors in the Department of Medical Imaging who share the same passion for detecting breast cancer at its earliest stage.

This latest round of NIH funding enables Karellas and Vedantham to further improve the identification of cancerous breast tissue. The Biomedical Imaging Innovation and Clinical Translation in Next-Gen CT (BIG-CT) team will design, develop and clinically evaluate a new generation of breast-specific computed tomography that will provide 3-D images of breast tissue. Their unique patient-positioning design alleviates the need for breast compression that often is painful for patients undergoing mammograms. 

More than reducing patient discomfort with breast cancer screening, BIG-CT research aims to provide an accurate estimate of breast density, a known risk factor for breast cancer.  The research team also is working to reduce the occurrence of false positives, which require additional exams and biopsies.

The UA researchers anticipate the fully 3-D nature of their tomographic images will improve the detection of abnormal findings and quickly allow doctors to determine whether the findings are malignant or noncancerous.

Karellas and  Vedantham are the principal investigators; co-investigators include Kimberly Fitzpatrick, M.D. (medical imaging); Marisa Borders, M.D. (medical imaging); Leigh Neumayer, M.D., MS, FACS (surgery); Denise Roe, DrPH (epidimeology and biostatistics); and Lauren LeBeau, M.D. (pathology).

Since their arrival at the UA in 2017, the professors, along with Hsin-Wu Tseng, Ph.D., have improved the methods for capturing images used for breast cancer imaging. As directors of the BIG-CT research laboratory, Karellas and Vedantham, also members of the UA Cancer Center, have endeavored to improve the process of breast cancer detection, a disease that affects about 1 in 8 U.S. women.

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