The multidisciplinary Dartmouth team includes researchers from the Thayer School of Engineering and Dartmouth Medical School, and they are working under the auspices of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the department of radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Halfway through their five-year, $7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study four techniques for breast imaging, the group is learning a great deal about breast tissue structure and behavior through magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), electrical impedance spectral imaging (EIS), microwave imaging spectroscopy (MIS), and near infrared (NIR) spectral imaging.
It's the combination of these four techniques that sets the Dartmouth program apart. Their rationale is that one of the methods by itself may not provide the complete picture, but by using more than one technique, there should be added value.
"I think we're the only group looking at these four methods simultaneously," says Keith Paulsen, engineering professor and one of the principal investigators with the Breast Imaging Project.
By collaborating across disciplines, the researchers have been able to take prototype equipment from the drawing board, to the laboratory, to the patient relatively quickly.
"The research is preliminary, but we are progressing," says Steven Poplack, associate professor of radiology and of obstetrics and gynecology. "We're still gathering basic information about the clinical characteristics of normal breast tissue. Once we know what's normal, we can then start working on recognizing what's abnormal."