Universities develop 3D X-rays to target breast cancer

Durham University spin-out, Kromek, has secured a $4m contract from the US National Institute for Health to develop 3D breast-scanning technology.

Over the next four years, Kromek will be working with Massachusetts University Medical School to commercialise a system that will provide earlier and more accurate diagnosis of breast cancer.

Currently, X-ray mammography is the most popular method of breast screening. One of its limitations, however, is that it represents 3D information on a 2D plane making varied tissue structures difficult to distinguish.

According to a report published last year in Denmark, one in three breast cancer cases diagnosed by mammography can be harmless and lead to women needlessly undergoing invasive treatment.

By using X-ray animation technology developed for baggage screening applications, Kromek’s system can construct an image that consists of 3D spatial information and multi-spectral detail.

‘The real benefits these detectors bring are the possibility of reducing the dosage the patient receives and enhancing the contrast in imaging,’ said chief executive, Arnab Basu. ‘It will allow better differentiation of various tissue structures and provide material-specific information within these structures.’

According to Kromek, this is the first time this type of data set has been produced in an X-ray imaging system. The company has traditionally been involved in the development of security systems based on radiation detection, but claims this technology will be valuable in a range of sectors.

‘We strongly believe that colour 3D X-ray technology will be a dominate technology over the next decade in multiple industries,’ added Basu. ‘We are now going into the medical industry with this programme…our expectation is that at the end of the project we will have a complete working system available.’