Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) researchers are involved in a European network aiming to develop an endoscopic scanner for early detection of certain types of cancers that have high mortality rates.
As part of the initiative, the European Union funded the international collaboration known as EndoTOFPET-US in which various multidisciplinary groups joined forces to develop the first endoscopic PET scanner for specific organs.
UPM researchers actively participated in the design and implementation of the electronics and the data acquisition system of the detector with the collaboration of PETsys Electronics SA.
Despite recent advancements in detection and diagnosis, some types of cancers are detected only in advanced stages due to their morphology and location. Improving on early detection of the different types of cancers is essential to increase the survival rates.
The ongoing project includes two trends in medical imaging: Detectors for examination of certain organs and a multimodal imaging technique, both of which are intended to provide new data about cancer.
In the case of conventional PET scanners, the patient’s body is introduced in a ring of detectors to obtain a cross-section image. Given the new possibilities of miniaturization, researchers are studying a new asymmetric architecture in which a miniaturized detector is introduced inside the patient’s body and placed close to the organ of interest. As a result, this proximity provides higher sensitivity since the patient would receive a lower radioactive dose to visualize the lesion without losing the image quality.
“Thanks to its high-speed electronics, this scanner (also) measures the time of flight of photons and this allows researchers a precise identification of the origin point in where particles are concentrated in the tumor mass, filtering the background noise and giving as a result clear images,” according to UPM researchers who added that the system has a high degree of pixels, providing higher spatial resolution of the image and detecting millimeter lesions.
In addition, multimodal imaging is way to obtain information by combining diverse techniques and merging the resulting images. Specifically, the scanner combines ultrasounds, which give morphological information of the area of interest, with PET, that provides metabolic information to identify cancerous cells.
The scanner requires a high-performance data acquisition system. Thus, UPM researchers in collaboration with PETSys Electronics SA have designed a distributed and asymmetric system, which manages a great volume of data due to the large number of channels with different data rates for each type of detector (endoscopic and abdominal detectors).
Part of the success of the system is based on the decentralization, since it moves part of its complexity to the electronics embedded in the detectors. Therefore, the system can implement a multi-level triggering scheme with various stages of filtering data depending on the information available on each stage.
According to UPM researchers: “This new generation of endoscopic scanners will contribute (to) the development of devices that will allow us to visualize cancers in the early stages, and consequently to enhance their prognosis.”
In order to boost the future of research in Europe, this consortium also took the opportunity to train a group of young researchers who participated in the development of the scanner.