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Medical Imaging for Breast Cancer - Reducing the Need for Biopsy


Researchers at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) are collaborating with a start-up company, Dilon Technologies, Newport News, Virginia and Johns Hopkins University (Dr. Cahid Civelek) on a new medical imaging device that improves scintimammography, a nuclear medicine method of breast tumor detection.

Scintimammography scan
of a malignant breast tumor
(Dilon Technologies)

Scintimammography used at Johns Hopkins during clinical trials after mammogram identified an area of uncertainty.

Scintimammography uses standard biological tracers to locate the tumor. Biological tracers are specially prepared chemicals carrying a gamma-ray emitting radioactive isotope that can mark certain biological processes. Medical researchers have shown that several types of cancer cells uptake and accumulate these markers more readily than normal cells. The new device "senses" the gamma-rays emitted by the tumor and using those gamma rays, the device builds an image of the tumor.

Simplified schematic of imaging system

Advantages of Scintimammography

Unlike standard devices, this imaging detector is capable of capturing close views of the tumor, and increasing accuracy in detection and localization of small lesions.

Other Possible Applications Include:

Current Status

The gamma imager is undergoing clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. FDA authorization was received recently to manufacture and market these imagers. Orders are being taken for December 1999 delivery.


Development is supported via a Cooperative Research And Development Agreement between Dilon Technologies and Jefferson Lab with the support of the Department of Energys Division of Nuclear Physics.