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Phd position Optimisation study of Microbubbles for in-vivo Dosimetry - Belgium  

KU Leuven (company)


Posted on : 19 July 2017

Project Description

  • Recent records on cancer incidence and mortality as well as on the associated economic burden, attest that cancer will remain a major and worldwide public health problem with serious socio-economic impact in the forthcoming decades. 
  • Comprised in the cure of approximately 50% of all cancer patients, radiation therapy is a fundamental pillar in cancer treatment. 
  • Relying on the tissue damaging properties of ionizing radiation, radiation therapy aims to maximally expose tumor tissue with minimal healthy tissue exposure.
  •  Thereto, and in accordance with the overall evolution towards customized patient-specific healthcare, recent advances in radiation therapy enable the planning and delivery of complex dose distributions exhibiting high tumor conformity. 
  • However, increased tumor conformity requires increased delivery accuracy which needs to be verified to ensure appropriate tumor exposure and minimal healthy tissue irradiation. 
  • This implies a growing need for appropriate treatment verification strategies effectively measuring the actual radiation dose imparted on the tumor. Despite this unmistakable need, current dosimetry technology is lagging behind on radiotherapy planning and delivery evolutions. 
  • As a consequence, radiotherapy cannot exploit its full capability. 
  • Recognizing this missing link, the scientific challenge and breakthrough pursued in AMΦOPA is the development of a non-invasive in-situ dosimetry system for radiation therapy monitoring with the potential of on-line dose assessment. 
  • This will be pursued by casting ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) into the unprecedented role of dose sensing theranostic devices. 
  • To realize this, UCAs will be upgraded to injectable dosesensitive and targeted devices that gather in tumor tissue and translate imparted radiation dosage into an alteration of their acoustic response upon ultrasound interrogation.
  •  Tailored ultrasound imaging and advanced signal processing algorithms will be developed to extract the (change in) acoustic signature of UCAs from backscatter data and to translate this information into a 2D or 3D dose distribution map. 
  • The specific objectives of this project are the design, development and initial pre-clinical validation of the aforementioned UCA based dosimetry system. 
  • This involves the design and development of targeted radiation-sensitive UCAs as well as customized ultrasound read-out technology.
  •  As both tasks incorporate a substantial risk-balance towards project success, whilst relying on disjunctive background expertise, significant research efforts will be devoted to the analysis of the dosimeter concept, establishing the link between both fields of expertise. 
  • Pre-clinical validation in rodent tumor models will be performed to evaluate the dosimeter accuracy, along with bio-distribution and initial bio-compatibility analysis. 
  • Pursuing potential means to assess the radiation dose distribution in (and around) the tumor, this project intends to grant radiation therapists and physicists access to the currently un measurable very essence of their treatment. Successful completion of this project would therefore revolutionize quality assurance and treatment follow up, unmistakably leading to increased patient safety and offering advanced and objective means to compare and evaluate treatment efficacy of different radiotherapy modalities. This could potentially even further improve treatment protocols. 
  • Moreover, emergence of in-situ dose information is expected to trigger an avalanche of technological advances exploiting this new source of information to herald a new era in adaptive radiotherapy further focusing on treatment delivery specificity and tumor conformity.
  •  In addition, as ultrasound contrast agents provide a highly flexible platform, successful completion of this project is expected to pave the way for other in-vivo UCA based distributed sensing applications (e.g. temperature, acidity, etc.). As such, the potential impact of AMΦOPA ranges well beyond the field of radiotherapy.

  • Master in Sciences oe Engineering, interest field of physics or physical Chemistry
  • Background in acoustics is a plus
  • Interest in experiments, modelling and numerical simulations of real physical phenomena
  • Team player
  • Independent researcher
  • Curiosity driven
  • Determined to go for a Doctorate Degree
  • Fluent English, Dutch is a plus

We can offer funding for a 4 years doctoral program in an interdisciplinary research environment.