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Sharpened focus: Improving the numbers, utility of medical imaging
Date:4/14/2011

The idea of probing the body's interior with radiation stretches back to experiments with X rays in the 1800s, but more than a century later, images taken with radiological scans still are not considered reliable enough to, for example, serve as the sole indicator of the efficacy of a cancer treatment. Lisa Karam, a biochemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and a few dozen of her colleagues across North America have set out to change that.

The group of radiology specialists from a number of institutions has recently published* a pair of papers that Karam describes as part of a major effort to turn medical imagingCT scans, PET scans, MRIs, X rays and the likeinto a quantitative research tool, one that produces reliable numbers. Karam says her hope is that the group's efforts will enable scientists to determine whether a new drug or treatment method is working within weeks rather than months or years, thereby cutting down on the time it takes to get an effective new therapy approved for patients.

"Let's say doctors are studying an experimental drug that might destroy lung tumors," says Karam, "CT scans might show that patients' lung tumors shrink after a few weeks on the drug, but regulators would not accept this as evidence that the drug works because legitimate concerns exist about other variables that might be responsible for the apparent change in the image. What we want to do is get control over enough of those variables so that these concerns will fall away."

The many coauthors of the two papers are members of a subgroup of the Radiological Society of North America called the Quantitative Imaging Biomarker Alliance (QIBA). NIST's primary role, Karam says, is in helping to get control of anything involved in the imaging process that has to do with measurable physical values, from the radiation beams to the properties of the tissues being imaged.

In the example of lung tumors, Karam says, one
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Contact: Chad Boutin
boutin@nist.gov
301-975-4261
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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