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Safer, more accurate radiation therapy for expecting mothers
Date:12/18/2007

Troy, N.Y. Developing fetuses are extremely sensitive to radiation, which poses an impossible dilemma for expecting mothers in need of screening or treatment for cancer. Now researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new set of modeling tools that could enable safer, more accurate, and more effective radiation therapy and nuclear medicine imaging procedures for pregnant women.

Radiation is a doubled-edged sword: It holds the power to cure cancer, but if used improperly it can also cause serious damage to the human body. The situation is even more critical with pregnant females, as any errant radiation could severely harm and impede the growth of the fetus.

The human body is a particular challenge to model because of its wide variety of organs, each with a complex and unique shape, said X. George Xu, professor of nuclear and biomedical engineering at Rensselaer, who is leading the project. Pregnant females are even more difficult to model using current methods, so we took an entirely new approach.

Physicians use advanced computer simulations to determine the correct dose of radiation to administer to patients. These computer simulations are based on sophisticated virtual models of the human body. About 30 of these models, sometimes called phantoms, have been developed worldwide.

The data needed to build such models, however, requires extensive X-rays and computed tomography scans. Since pregnant patients are prohibited from undergoing X-rays or other imaging procedures, there has never been enough data to create an accurate phantom of a pregnant woman.

These new models should be extremely useful for understanding the risks of radiation, and for better planning radiation imaging and treatment for pregnant women, Xu said. The tools we have developed for this research should also open up several new avenues for improving the field of radiation dosimetry.

Conventional methods of ph
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  
Source:Eurekalert

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