Exploiting photon energy information in Positron Emission Tomography

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Medical Physics and Biomedical Eng


Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging forms a crucial part of managing the patient's treatment pathway in cancer and many other diseases. However, due to limitations on radioactive dose to the patient, PET images can be noisy and with relatively low image resolution. Modern PET scanners have experimental capabilities to measure gamma photon energy information in much more detail than before, which has the potential to increase signal to noise (SNR) ratio, as shown in preliminary scientific papers. However, further work is needed before this can be progressed to commercial systems.

This project aims to evaluate the impact of various methods to exploit additional photon energy information on image quality, as well as optimise the most promising candidates. Aspects to be included are scatter rejection by using energy window tuning, photon scatter estimation, accidental coincidences, as well as image reconstruction strategies. We envisage combining established PET data processing with novel techniques using Machine Learning.

This project will extend previous work on using photon energy in PET and SPECT. Previous publications have investigated the potential for a decrease in noise or the joint estimation of attenuation and emission images. We intend to combine this by investigating optimal energy windows providing a trade-off between accuracy and precision in the resulting estimates.

This project fits primarily in the second Challenge of the EPSRC health technologies theme : Transforming early prediction and diagnosis.

Planned Impact

The critical mass of scientists and engineers that i4health will produce will ensure the UK's continued standing as a world-leader in medical imaging and healthcare technology research. In addition to continued academic excellence, they will further support a future culture of industry and entrepreneurship in healthcare technologies driven by highly trained engineers with deep understanding of the key factors involved in delivering effective translatable and marketable technology. They will achieve this through high quality engineering and imaging science, a broad view of other relevant technological areas, the ability to pinpoint clinical gaps and needs, consideration of clinical user requirements, and patient considerations. Our graduates will provide the drive, determination and enthusiasm to build future UK industry in this vital area via start-ups and spin-outs adding to the burgeoning community of healthcare-related SMEs in London and the rest of the UK. The training in entrepreneurship, coupled with the vibrant environment we are developing for this topic via unique linkage of Engineering and Medicine at UCL, is specifically designed to foster such outcomes. These same innovative leaders will bolster the UK's presence in medical multinationals - pharmaceutical companies, scanner manufacturers, etc. - and ensure the UK's competitiveness as a location for future R&D and medical engineering. They will also provide an invaluable source of expertise for the future NHS and other healthcare-delivery services enabling rapid translation and uptake of the latest imaging and healthcare technologies at the clinical front line. The ultimate impact will be on people and patients, both in the UK and internationally, who will benefit from the increased knowledge of health and disease, as well as better treatment and healthcare management provided by the future technologies our trainees will produce.

In addition to impact in healthcare research, development, and capability, the CDT will have major impact on the students we will attract and train. We will provide our talented cohorts of students with the skills required to lead academic research in this area, to lead industrial development and to make a significant impact as advocates of the science and engineering of their discipline. The i4health CDT's combination of the highest academic standards of research with excellent in-depth training in core skills will mean that our cohorts of students will be in great demand placing them in a powerful position to sculpt their own careers, have major impact within our discipline, while influencing the international mindset and direction. Strong evidence demonstrates this in our existing cohorts of students through high levels of conference podium talks in the most prestigious venues in our field, conference prizes, high impact publications in both engineering, clinical, and general science journals, as well as post-PhD fellowships and career progression. The content and training innovations we propose in i4health will ensure this continues and expands over the next decade.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S021930/1 30/09/2019 30/03/2028
2831470 Studentship EP/S021930/1 07/05/2023 06/05/2027 Antonia Reeves