Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 3 – 2006

James Brooks, Urology
Dwight Nishimura, Electrical Engineering
Bob S. Hu, Electrical Engineering
John Higgins, Pathology

Imaging (x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans) is used in the diagnosis and management of virtually all cancers.  Surprisingly, current imaging technologies are not useful for prostate cancer.  For instance, there are no imaging methods that allow us to visualize cancers in the prostate, forcing us to diagnose prostate cancers by blind biopsies.  The reason prostate cancer is so difficult to image is that it infiltrates between normal prostate tissues and does not form large, discrete tumors.  Therefore, to visualize prostate cancer with imaging technologies, we need to use techniques with very high resolution, virtually at the level of the cancer cells.  We have developed MRI technologies for high-resolution imaging for applications in cardiovascular medicine.  In this research project we propose to use these technologies as a foundation for developing an innovative method to image prostate cancer.  We have assembled an experienced team of electrical engineers and physicians who are experts in treating and diagnosing prostate cancer to tackle this important problem.  If successful, this new imaging technology could drastically help us to better diagnose prostate cancer, by both reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies and increasing the yield of biopsies that are performed.  In addition, it could help us identify which cancers are aggressive, based on their size and characteristic appearance, which could in turn help us decide the most appropriate therapy for each patient.  Finally, accurate imaging of cancers in the prostate would set the stage for treatments that target only the cancer, thereby decreasing the devastating side effects therapy.