Medical Physics team win at the Bright Ideas in Health Award 2019

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A team from the Northern Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering Directorate has won an award at the Bright Ideas in Health Awards 2019, sponsored by the Academic Health Science Network in the North East and North Cumbria. The NMPCE team of Alison Bray, Helen Elliott and Tim Powell are working in partnership with colleagues from the Kromek Group, the NIHR Newcastle MedTech and In-Vitro Diagnostics Cooperative and the Radiology Directorate of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to develop a novel imaging device for detecting breast cancer.

Women in the UK aged 50-70 years are invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years. Primary screening (mammography) involves imaging the breast using X-rays. This depends on a tumour being denser than the surrounding breast tissue, and therefore appearing white against a dark background. However, some women have dense breast tissue, so that finding a tumour is like ‘looking for a cloud in a cloudy sky’.

Kromek Group and The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have won 3 years’ funding from Innovate UK to develop and evaluate an alternative technology: low dose molecular breast imaging. This involves an injection of a radioactive substance that is absorbed more by a tumour than the surrounding tissue due to its higher metabolic activity. The breast is then imaged by a gamma camera that detects the radiation, and the image isn’t affected by breast density. The technique is already used in the USA; the innovative step that Kromek will take is to develop new camera technology to allow the radiation dose to be lowered, making the test more feasible and desirable for adoption into the UK NHS.

The team is delighted to have won first place in the Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine category at the AHSN NENC’s 2019 Bright Ideas in Health Awards. The award strengthens our belief in the importance of our work, which has the potential to touch many lives by detecting breast cancer more quickly and more accurately. We hope that the award will spread news of our project across the region, and beyond, as we would love to hear from anyone with an interest in collaborating.