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Innovative Training Network towards raising and supporting the next generation of creative and entrepreneurial cross-speciality imaging experts

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HYBRID (Innovative Training Network towards raising and supporting the next generation of creative and entrepreneurial cross-speciality imaging experts)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

What is HYBRID about?
HYBRID is an intersectoral, innovative training network that received funding from the European Commission for 4 years. Here, HYBRID stands for “Healthcare yearns for bright researchers of imaging data”. We seek to provide essential information for personalized medicine that involves non-invasive imaging procedures. Personalized medicine is the practice of using selected and measured characteristics to guide decisions on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease for patient groups and individual patients. It represents a paradigm shift in patient management. To realize the full potential of personalized medicine, highly-specific, reproducible and quantifiable biomarkers are required for disease characterization. Such biomarkers can be obtained with a number of techniques, of which non-invasive imaging methods have become a focus of attention over the past decade.

The ultimate goal of HYBRID is to establish the field of non-invasive disease characterization using various imaging methods, including X-ray imaging, computed tomography (CT), nuclear scintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), or more complex imaging methods, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Specifically, we seek to adopt a more inclusive approach to image analysis, which considers anatomical and functional imaging using multiple of these methods, together with related non-imaging parameters that are extracted from patients during their clinical work-up. We propose this all-encompassing method, or holistic approach to deriving valuable information from imaging and non-image related data: HYBRID.

The HYBRID Mission
Our network brings together international academic, industrial and non-governmental organization partners in a cross-specialty platform to advance imaging sciences as part of personalized medicine with a focus on non-invasive imaging using multiple methods that includes anatomical and functional data from patients. Specifically, we present a consortium of world-leading imaging experts with in-depth knowledge of advanced imaging. Their expertise spans from the development of imaging methods, the design and construction of imaging systems, to applied imaging in research and clinical routine. All experts are embedded in a clinical environment, thus experienced in converting ideas and knowledge into applications fit for clinical use.

The HYBRID Vision
Our vision is to support the concept of personalized medicine by providing novel insights into disease characterization and diagnostic methods that are applicable in clinical routine.
All PhD fellows in HYBRID started before September 2018. Overall, the separate projects are running smoothly. Where necessary, clearance to work with human subjects or data has been obtained from local ethics committees prior to starting the research. Additionally, informed consent to use personal, clinical and biomaterial data for research is obtained from all subjects in compliance with the relevant national and institutional law or regulations.

The milestones and deliverables for the first reporting period have been completed, except two milestones which are delayed due to technical reasons and re-evaluation of priorities. The progress of the projects has been presented at multiple (inter-)national conferences, and has so far resulted in three peer-reviewed papers.

All fellows have a personal development plan in which they report the progress of their project, as well as the courses they take in order to develop their skills in conducting their research autonomously with the support of scientific and non-academic network partners. They are enrolled in local PhD programmes. Besides the local training courses the fellows can follow, additional trainings are organized by HYBRID. Topics covered in this first reporting period are among others scientific integrity, media training, (project) management skills, and open science. Moreover, annual training weeks have provided the fellows with a full overview of the techniques and methodological approaches available in HYBRID along with hands-on experiences. Concurrently with these annual training weeks, general meetings have been organized to encourage interaction between ESRs and PIs from the various beneficiaries.

The HYBRID website (www.hybrid2020.eu) provides an overview of the goals, mission and vision of the project and the individual research activities. It introduces the teas involved. It is also the main place where news articles concerning HYBRID meetings, outreach activities by our fellows and other relevant information is shared. The articles are often (co)-written by fellows, who can use this as an opportunity to practice their writing skills for a general audience. Further dissemination of HYBRID news takes place via the HYBRID Twitter account (@HYBRID2020). Finally, all fellows perform outreach activities every year to share their research with the general public, ranging from children to senior citizens.
Non-invasive imaging methods, including X-ray imaging, CT, nuclear scintigraphy, SPECT, MRI and PET are key to state-of-the-art patient management. Integrated dual-modality imaging methods (hybrid imaging) can take these techniques beyond state of the art, by providing more diagnostic information than their individual components. Specifically, HYBRID seeks to adopt a more inclusive approach to image analysis, that considers anatomical, functional and hybrid imaging, together with related non-imaging parameters that are extracted from patients during their clinical work-up (e.g. histopathology, genetic profiles).

Within HYBRID, we aim to educate a new generation of imaging experts with an encompassing knowledge from data acquisition and processing to clinical implementation of new technologies. This way, they will be able to tackle the challenges of tomorrow’s medical imaging. In work package 2, the aim is to provide optimal data acquisition protocols and image formation methods to generate accurate and reliable multi-parametric images. Work package 3 aims to develop analysis techniques to improve diagnosis using multi-parametric, multi-modality imaging. Finally, work package 4 aims to integrate multi-parametric imaging (MPI) into patient management by optimizing diagnosis, prediction, therapy planning, and evaluation; with focus on cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The results obtained by the HYBRID project will help groups of patients in the future by providing means to tailor diagnostic and therapeutic choices to individual patients. This, in turn, will bring healthcare costs down by avoiding futile and costly procedures for those who will not benefit from inappropriate and ineffective treatments.