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Northeastern University and Mass General Hospital Increase the Accuracy, While Reducing the Diagnosis Time, for Breast Cancer Detection

Research teams solve the computational hurdle using Star-P

WALTHAM, Mass., Feb. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers at the Northeastern University Computer Architecture Research Lab (NUCAR) and the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (CenSSIS) are teaming with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) on a promising new breast cancer detection technology that improves breast cancer screening accuracy. The team is applying new supercomputing technology to a 30-year-old imaging modality called tomosynthesis, which until now has been relegated to research labs due to its massive and expensive computational requirements.

Called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT), the system creates a 3D image of the breast using a series of x-ray projections collected during a 20- second, 40-degree sweep. It makes cancer lesions easier to detect among dense breast tissue by creating a stack of 1mm spaced high-resolution slices that can be displayed individually, or assembled into a 3D view that can be rendered for more careful examination. DBT also reduces the amount of breast compression required by traditional mammography, which can deter women from getting an annual screening.

NUCAR scientists addressed this computational hurdle by creating a DBT reconstruction application on their desktop PCs using MATLAB(R), and then running the code on an affordable Linux parallel cluster using Star-P software from Interactive Supercomputing, Inc. (ISC). Reconstructing DBT used to take many hours. With this new Star-P approach, imaging reconstruction can be completed in just a few minutes. The complicated parallel programming task has been dramatically simplified using Star-P, slashing development time from many months to days.

General Electric is developing a commercial DBT device that should be generally available in 2009. The Northeastern team has been supported by a NSF Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project with ISC, the NSF's CenSSIS, and by Mass General Hospital, which is known worldwide for offering the most advanced breast screening and treatment services available.

"The support from Northeastern has radically shifted this paradigm," said Richard Moore, program director for Breast Imaging Research and CenSSIS at MGH. "With this kind of performance, we can realistically rely on 3D methods that were out of the question previously. It's not just the speed, it's the exploratory freedom."

"We've been able to take a technology that had an enormous computational barrier and turn it into a commercially viable product by making its underlying parallel computing platform fast, easy and affordable," said Professor David Kaeli, director of NUCAR and thrust leader in CenSSIS. "The multi-dimensional imaging technique involves the processing of up to 15 high resolution x-ray images. This kind of application typically requires a very long time to carry out repetitive operations on large image matrices. Parallelizing these large datasets on affordable hardware can now achieve the performance required for real-world implementations." The parallelization effort was performed by Dana Schaa, a graduate student working with Professor Kaeli.

Kaeli said Star-P was a good solution for this challenge because it enabled his team of researchers to easily code algorithms using their familiar desktop environment, automatically transforming the application to run on parallel clusters. Star-P eliminates the need to re-program the applications in complex languages such as C, FORTRAN or MPI (message passing interface) to run on the cluster -- which otherwise requires arcane programming knowledge and months to complete.

About Interactive Supercomputing

Interactive Supercomputing (ISC) launched in 2004 to commercialize Star-P, an interactive parallel computing platform. With automatic parallelization and interactive execution of existing desktop simulation applications, Star-P merges two previously distinct environments - desktop computers and high performance servers - into one. Based in Waltham, Mass., the privately held company markets Star-P for a range of biomedical, financial, and government laboratory research applications.

Star-P is a registered trademark of Interactive Supercomputing Inc. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.


Ilya Mirman Michelle Dillon

Interactive Supercomputing Beaupre & Co. Public Relations

781-419-5088 603-559-5835

SOURCE Interactive Supercomputing
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