Marquette and Varian receive $2.5 million NIH grant for CT scan radiation study

April 18, 2018

Researchers will develop tool to estimate CT radiation dosage to individual patients

MILWAUKEE — Dr. Taly Gilat-Schmidt, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Dr. Josh Star-Lack, principal scientist of applied research at Varian, have received a $2,482,601 U01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study Computed Tomography radiation dosages in patients. Their research is in collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

The four-year study involving Marquette and Varian, of Palo Alto, California, a leader in designing and manufacturing medical devices for treating cancer, aims to develop and verify a software tool to estimate the radiation dose delivered to a patient's organs when he or she undergoes a CT examination. Approximately 76 million CT scans are performed in the United States each year and are responsible for half the radiation delivered to patients by medical procedures. However, existing automated tools to measure radiation dosage do not model a patient's specific anatomy, which can introduce errors in the estimated radiation dose to organs.

"Concern for unknown cancer risks and recent overdosing incidents have led to increased dose monitoring and reporting," Gilat-Schmidt said. "However, reporting methods are quantifying the dose delivered to a plastic cylinder or phantom model — not the organs of an individual patient. Our research looks to develop software that will do just that."

The proposed software tool will provide accurate, rapid and personalized reporting of the radiation dose delivered to a patient's organs as part of every CT scan. Gilat-Schmidt's research will use expertise from the radiology and radiation oncology fields to develop algorithms that take into account scanner and anatomical complexities.

"Varian is excited to work with Dr. Gilat-Schmidt on this important project, a key part of which is to explore the use of state-of-the-art radiotherapy technologies to improve CT dose reporting," said Dr. Star-Lack.

"We're proud of Dr. Gilat-Schmidt and her team for this recognition, which is the first of its kind at Marquette," said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. "Their research will have a long-standing impact on CT scan radiation practices and minimizing their potentially dangerous effects on patients."

The dose estimation tool will be developed from a study of 500 pediatric CT data sets, providing valuable information about the magnitude and variation of pediatric CT dosage in clinical practice. As a result, an organ-dose database will be made available as a resource for clinical and technical research. Beyond the initial research, the software tool is expected to incorporate patient-specific organ doses and dose maps into electronic medical records for personalized reporting; minimize dosage given to individual patients; and develop databases to guide dosage protocol and epidemiological studies of organ dosage and cancer incidence in particular demographics.

"Dr. Gilat-Schmidt's prestigious grant is strengthening Marquette's medical imaging research capabilities and our relationships with very significant research partners," Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said. "Our mission calls on us to discover knowledge for the benefit of all, and this research team is responding to that call by developing a tool that can make powerful differences in the lives of patients and their families."

NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than $32 billion a year to enhance life and reduce illness and disability.

About Gilat-Schmidt's Medical Imaging Systems LaboratoryThe Medical Imaging Systems Laboratory focuses on the design and optimization of medical imaging systems and reconstruction algorithms, with the goal of improving image quality and reducing radiation dosage. Application of theoretical, computational and experimental methods are used on CT, tomosynthesis and X-ray imaging. Laboratory collaborators include the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Chicago and industry partners.