Jefferson Lab Device Helps Breast Imaging

A futuristic breast-imaging device built at Jefferson Lab in Newport News detected cancer that existing technology missed, a recently published study found.

The positron emission mammography device found 18 malignant tumors in 23 patients at Duke University Medical Center. One tumor hadn't been picked up by a standard mammography, giving scientists hope that the Jefferson Lab device might improve cancer detection.

"We're working so that we can save some lives by showing things that could not have otherwise been seen," said Stan Majewski, leader of the Jefferson Lab Detector Group.

Standard mammography often fails to detect lesions in breasts that have implants or dense tissue. Young women tend to have denser tissue due to less fat content in their breasts, Majewski said.

The Jefferson Lab device works by detecting absorption of glucose, or sugar, in breast cells. Cancer cells use more glucose than healthy cells. A small dose of radioactively labeled sugar is injected into patients before the examination.

The positron emission mammography device pinpoints tumors in the breasts by detecting the location of absorption of the radioactive molecules. Positrons, the anti-particle of electrons, are emitted in the process.

Majewski is looking forward to the results of a larger current study of 200 patients that has financing from the National Institutes of Health.

Businesses, including Newport News-based Dilon Technologies, are competing to produce the best breast imaging using various technologies developed at Jefferson Lab.

"Every nuclear physicist's dream is to build something that society will benefit directly from," Majewski said.

For more information, visit www.jlab.org.

Science Budget

You've read about how proposed federal money cuts could affect research at NASA Langley Research Center. Well, Jefferson Lab would also see a cut under President Bush's 2006 budget, which still needs approval from Congress.

The proposed budget would decrease Jefferson Lab's financing 8 percent, from $85.9 million to $79 million.

Leaders at Jefferson Lab are analyzing how this would affect research and have let local members of Congress know about the shortfall.