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New technologies for imaging and quantification of tumour angiogenesis with ultrasound contrast agents

Final Activity Report Summary - TUMOURANGIO (New technologies for imaging and quantification of tumour angiogenesis with ultrasound contrast agents)

High resolution tools for direct micro-vessel imaging and flow measurement of tumours, by developing 2D and 3D imaging and quantification methods with contrast enhanced diagnostic ultrasound were created. Nonlinear pulsing schemes were developed to detect with ultrasonic imaging the contrast microbubbles in-vivo, and thus offering a depiction of the macro and micro vasculature of organs and tumours. Based on the vascular patterns of tumours we can characterise lesions to find if they are malignant or benign, and also monitor the regression or progression of tumour angiogenesis.

A biomedical ultrasound laboratory was established to support the work of the project. The laboratory offers ultrasound imaging for in-vitro experiments (tissue and flow phantoms), acquisition equipment for acoustic/ultrasonic measurements, and computing facilities for establishing quantification techniques for tumour angiogenesis from ultrasonic images.

The next step after the development of imaging tools and the in-vitro experimentation was to run clinical trials (collect ultrasound images from patients) related with tumour angiogenesis to validate the imaging and quantification tools developed. The main objective of the research was to monitor cancer therapies and specifically track progression or regression of angiogenesis. Clinical and scientific collaborations with researchers from institutions across Europe and the US were established. In specific, according to the project proposal, collaborators from within Cyprus and Europe ("inner circle") and from the US and industry ("outer circle") were visited or visited UCY themselves in order to perform research with the chair holder in the proposed areas. Research in the areas of liver, ovarian, prostate, breast, kidney cancer was performed and the results have been published in scientific journals.

In terms of teaching and training, a rigorous teaching program was established in the area of biomedical imaging at the University of Cyprus. Fundamental and applied research was performed in both an academic and clinical environment with participants spanning from under- and post-graduate students, to visiting professors, and clinical researchers.

A series of classes and seminars all in the area of Biomedical Engineering was offered in all 3 years of the project in order to educate students. The courses included, Biomedical Imaging, Fundamentals of Acoustics, Medical Diagnostic Imaging, and Numerical Methods, and they were all taught 2-3 times (yearly or bi-yearly) during the course of the project. Graduate students were trained in the area of biomedical imaging/biotechnology and they received Master's and PhD degrees. Their training included hands-on experience in oncology centres, large university hospitals, and medical schools (e.g. Cyprus Oncology Centre, Hammersmtih Hospital at Imperial College, University of Heidelberg).

The chair older has participated in scientific conferences and workshops to present the results of the project and expand its activities in other related areas. He also participated in European consortia for small, medium, and large scale project proposals. One large FP7 project was funded and it is now underway at UCY, as one clear example of the outcomes of the Chair of Excellence activities. Participation in national proposal calls in the area of tumours angiogenesis has also resulted in the funding of research in the area of tumour angiogenesis.

In training of more general public audiences, a "Biotechnology Open House" took place every year to showcase the Asklipios Biomedical Ultrasound Laboratory of the UCY, present the research projects in the area of tumour angiogenesis, and attract new graduate students to the program. This event has been a great success, as many undergraduate students that attended the open house have later on applied for graduate school acceptance at the Department of Mechanical Engineering seeking Biomedical Imaging and Biotechnology degrees.