Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: Sch of Aerospace, Transport & Manufact


This proposal aims at developing advanced radiation detector materials for Time of Flight Positron Emission Tomography (ToF-PET) imaging by exploiting the novel concept of high performance multi-material radiation sensing heterostructures. These heterostructures will contribute to the development of next generation imaging technologies for diagnostic, monitoring and therapeutic applications, specifically, by substantially improving the capabilities of ToF-PET technology. These heterostructures will enable i) enhanced diagnostic power; ii) reduced risk to patients (dose efficiency); iii) increased procedural flexibility (i.e. planning of radiation dose strategies and reduced examination time); and eventually iv) direct ToF-PET imaging by rendering the currently time-consuming post-acquisition reconstruction stage obsolete. This effort will be supported by multi-disciplinary facilitation of the design, fabrication and characterisation of the heterostructures, in order to develop an advanced detector material solution for use in current and future ToF-PET detector modules. The output and impact of the research will be maximised through functional testing of the proposed heterostructure detector module. The proposal matches the aspirations of the EPSRC's Healthcare Technologies research theme by i) optimising treatment and care through effective diagnosis, patient-specific prediction and evidence-based intervention; ii) supporting the development of technologies to enhance efficacy, minimise costs and reduce risk to patients; and iii) bringing together a multidisciplinary team with expertise in material science, precision engineering and instrumentation, who will be further supported by external advisors, ToF-PET experts and industrial partners for providing guidance and ensuring the transformational impact of the proposed effort.

Planned Impact

The resulting heterostructure, having multiple materials working in synergy, will have the potential to maintain a short attenuation length comparable to LSO while providing a usable part of its signal within a sub-nanosecond time range, a fundamental criterion for improving the CRT of ToF-PET scanners. Quantitatively, the proposal targets a decrease of the CRT down to about 50 or less ps full width half maximum (FWHM). This improvement will have tremendous implications for the ToF-PET capabilities and will initiate a virtuous circle with benefits involving, but not restricted to, the improvement of the diagnostic power (c.f. Fig. 2); reduction of the examination time; increase of the effective dose sensitivity by a factor of about 10 (i.e. [25]). This will result in a decrease of the required injected dose of 1 order of magnitude with a Whole-Body PET/CT dose of about 1 mSv. This will provide much needed flexibility in treatment planning (e.g. either by using PET as a less-invasive technique for a similar image quality or by enhancing the diagnostic power for a similar injected dose), and it will also enable improved and/or new modalities: e.g. i) use of PET imaging as pre- and post-natal diagnostic tool for detecting neuro-chemical abnormalities associated with neurologic disorders as well as to study normal brain development; ii) advancement of image-guided radiation therapy (e.g. improved disease extent appraisal, and assessment of therapy response); iii) better-earlier prediction of outcome or tumour recurrence; iv) selected screening applications, such as a secondary screen for lung cancer after obtaining suggestive low-dose CT results; v) distribution of radiotracers becomes more cost-effective if lower injected activities can still yield high-quality images. It may even be possible to distribute tracers based on shorter-lived radionuclides, particularly 11C; vi) multiple radiotracers imaging and eventually vii) direct ToF imaging. Finally this project is highly complementary to the current efforts to develop a first-generation total-body PET/CT scanners


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