Molecular Breast Imaging for Evaluating Breast Physiology Relating to Cancer Development and Treatment

Project: Research project

Project Details



The PI's career goals include (1) gaining knowledge and research experience in the study of breast physiology and the relationships between hormones, breast density, and cancer development, (2) learning techniques to coordinate effective patient studies to contribute to breast cancer research, and (3) becoming proficient in image analysis and software programming to develop clinical tools that aid in disease detection and diagnosis. The proposed projects in this application focus on the advancement of a functional breast imaging technique to study hormonally related breast physiology and breast cancer in several patient studies. This training also allows the PI to apply her background in the technical aspects of medical imaging to improve this technique and to develop image analysis algorithms that will advance its usefulness in breast cancer research. Breast density, which refers to fibroglandular tissue in the breast, presents several clinical problems in the detection of breast cancer because it makes cancer more difficult to detect by mammography and also increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. We are therefore studying the technique of molecular breast imaging (MBI), which images the uptake of a radiolabeled drug in the breast to image breast physiology rather than structure. Our current studies show the ability of MBI to offer significantly better cancer detection in the dense breast than mammography.

The objective of this proposal is first to further advance MBI as a clinical method for detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. This will be accomplished by comparing the effectiveness of MBI to another imaging method (magnetic resonance imaging or MRI), by developing tools for image analysis in order to provide important diagnostic information from MBI, and by studying other radiolabeled drugs that could offer a better or more specific MBI study. The second objective is to use MBI for studying hormonally related breast physiology and for determining the relationships between hormones, density, and the development and treatment of breast cancer.

The research proposed during this training program uses the innovative functional imaging technique of MBI as a update tool for studying breast physiology. Because functional imaging can detect and analyze breast disease processes in their earliest stages, when the opportunity for treatment or prevention of breast cancer is optimal, this research has potential to significantly impact the future of breast cancer detection and diagnosis. In particular, this work will dramatically improve cancer detection in the often neglected and high-risk population of women with dense breast parenchyma, who are served poorly by current screening techniques such as mammography. Furthermore, this research has potential for tremendous impact in the study of currently confounding relationships between hormonal factors, breast density, and breast cancer. It is projected that this research will lead to the rapid advancement of MBI in the clinical environment and may be used as a routine method for breast cancer detection and the examination of breast physiology within approximately 3 years.

Effective start/end date1/1/0612/31/06


  • U.S. Department of Defense: $642,407.00


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