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Emerging field of radiomics can provide insights into cancer treatment success

Embargoed until: Tuesday, July 22, at 11:00 am (US Eastern Time)

Ashley Moses, PCI
312-558-1770 x182

AUSTIN, Texas – Information hidden in imaging tests could help doctors more accurately choose the radiation therapy dose needed to kill tumors, suggests a study of more than 300 cancer patients being presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).

The research is the largest study to date to use radiomics – extracting statistical information from images and other measurements – to help predict the likely progression of cancer or its response to treatment based on positron emission tomography (PET) scans of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer. 

“Currently, there is a one-size-fits-all process for selecting radiation therapy doses, which might be too much for some patients and not enough for others,” said Joseph Deasy, Ph.D., senior author of the study and chair of the department of medical physics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. “Radiomics will help us know when we can turn down the treatment intensity with confidence, knowing we can still control the disease.”

In the study, researchers performed PET scans in 163 non-small cell lung cancer patients and 174 head and neck cancer patients before and after treatment. They extracted a variety of information from each tumor, including the intensity value of the PET image, the roughness of the image, and other information, such as how round the tumor was. In PET, the brighter an area is, the higher the intensity, showing that the tumor is consuming a greater amount of energy from the injected radioactive glucose substitute tracer.

Comparing the information gleaned from the before and after scans to how the patient fared – including whether the tumor shrank or how long the patient survived – researchers can create models that will help direct future therapy. For example, in the study researchers determined that lung tumors that have a higher uptake of the tracer need to be treated with a higher dose of radiation than is typically prescribed.

“Standard protocol today is to only use PET imaging to define the extent of a tumor to be treated,” said Dr. Deasy. “Based on the information from this study, the data would be extracted from those images and put into models that would tell the physician what dose was required to kill the tumor with a high probability.”

He noted that radiomics is a team effort that requires good collaboration between physicians, physicists and computer scientists.

In addition to Dr. Deasy, collaborators on the study being presented at AAPM are: J. Oh, H. Veeraraghavan, A. Apte, A. Rimner, M. Folkert, N. Lee, Z. Kohutek, H. Schoeder, M. Dunphy, J. Humm and S. Nehmeh.

About Medical Physicists
If you ever had a mammogram, ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, PET scan, or known someone treated for cancer, chances are reasonable that a medical physicist was working behind the scenes to make sure the imaging procedure was as effective as possible. Medical physicists help to develop new imaging techniques, improve existing ones, and assure the safety of radiation used in medical procedures in radiology, radiation oncology and nuclear medicine. They collaborate with radiation oncologists to design cancer treatment plans. They provide routine quality assurance and quality control on radiation equipment and procedures to ensure that cancer patients receive the prescribed dose of radiation to the correct location. They also contribute to the development of physics intensive therapeutic techniques, such as stereotactic radiosurgery and prostate seed implants for cancer to name a few. The annual meeting is a great resource, providing guidance to physicists to implement the latest and greatest technology in a community hospital close to you.

About AAPM
The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (www.aapm.org) is a scientific, educational, and professional organization with nearly 8,000 medical physicists. Headquarters are located at the American Center for Physics in College Park, Md.