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From cars to cancer: UH professor employs auto industry tools for tumor therapy

An effort is under way at the University of Houston to use technologies with origins in the automobile industry to develop new tools that will help doctors and technicians better plan radiation therapy for patients with head and neck cancer.

Dr. Ali Kamrani, founding director of the Design and Free Form Fabrication Laboratory at UH and a former auto industry researcher, is teaming up with Dr. Lei Dong, associate professor and deputy research director of radiation physics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, to develop predictive models of tumors that hopefully will increase the accuracy of radiation therapy.

"We aim to better understand tumor deformations using geometric and statistical models rather than repetitive CT scans," said Kamrani, an associate professor of industrial engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering. "In this case, patients will undergo a minimum number of CT scans, and the radiation plans will be developed using the predictive models."

Traditional computed tomography sessions, also known as CT scans, require a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images that, when combined, provide detailed three-dimensional images of many types of tissue.

"A CT scan is used to collect information with respect to tumor size, location and volume," he said. "But the CT scan itself is a source of harmful radiation to body tissues and other organs. During the treatment, patients undergo a series of CT scans, which are costly and tedious."

Reducing the number of CT scans is a primary objective for Kamrani, because it will reduce patient's risk to unwanted radiation.

Dong said patients receiving radiation usually have up to 40 treatment sessions, which are administered about five days a week for six to eight weeks. Thanks to computers, the treatment plans are now designed "almost perfectly," he said, and they may be "too good to be true."

"A tumor shrinks as it responds

Contact: Angela Hopp
University of Houston

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From cars to cancer: UH professor employs auto industry tools for tumor therapy
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