Have You Thanked Your Medical Physicist Today (For New Advances In Cancer Research)?

Have You Thanked Your Medical Physicist Today (For New Advances In Cancer Research)?

03.28.12 | By Kaelan Hollon

I've documented my astronomy nerd-dom before, so reading the CERN coverage of new imaging tools available to cancer doctors that can help scan and detect diseases earlier gave me a special thrill. My knowledge of physics (read: microscopic in scale and layman's-at-best) was assisted in great part by CERN's solid blog recap of several presentations given at the recent ICTR-PHE 2012 conference, a Swiss mega-conference focusing on biology, physics, and medical research. From CERN's Bulletin:

"Physicists are designing the new-generation detectors to be implemented in the imaging devices. They must be highly reliable and extremely accurate and provide a very fast response to allow the medical instruments to provide real-time information. New solid-state detectors could have these features. They are currently under study at CERN and in other physics laboratories. 'The Holy Grail would be a detector with a time resolution of 10 pico-seconds,' said Dennis Schaart, a medical doctor from Delft University of Technology. 'The materials and the knowledge we have at the moment suggest that this goal could be achieved in a not-too-distant future.'

"Physicists are also designing new solutions to produce isotopes for use as radio-tracers and for treatment. Scientists have observed that different tracers show a different efficiency depending on the specific type of tumour. Future tracers might be able to indicate diseased or abnormal cells with increased precision and, by using the appropriate imaging device, could even provide information about the tumour's specific metabolism. This information would be of great help to doctors, who have to define the most effective treatment."

CERN's blog recap is great, and includes a quick video explaining the conference highlights. If you've got some time and extra brainpower on your hands, you can click through to the conference website and check out the slide decks from the physicists who presented; they've all been uploaded and are publically available. Great example of research collaborations that are finding more efficient ways to answer the challenge of disease - and many thanks to medical physicists!

Follow Kaelan on Twitter @KaelanAtPhRMA.

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