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$2.5 Million NIH Grant for Breast Cancer Virtual Clinical Trials

May 8, 2012, Volume 58, No. 33

Two researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have been awarded a four-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to conduct breast cancer virtual clinical trials research. Dr. Andrew Maidment, associate professor of radiology and physics section chief, and Dr. Predrag Bakic, assistant professor of radiology, together with researchers from Barco, Inc., a technology company that designs and develops visualization products, will investigate virtual clinical trials. These are detailed computer simulations of human clinical trials that can help speed the integration of new imaging technologies into clinical practice. These trials act as precursors to human clinical trials, providing valuable insight into potential clinical performance and cost-effectiveness of new imaging technologies even before they come to the hospital setting.

The Penn Medicine and Barco researchers plan to develop an integrated system to perform virtual clinical trials of breast cancer screening technology that builds upon computational breast anatomy models, medical device simulations and complex display and observer models.  “As the pace of medical device development increases and as medical devices become more complex, one is faced with the quandary of increasing the pace of expensive clinical trials or finding effective and safe alternatives to some clinical trials,” Dr. Maidment said.       

The Penn researchers envision virtual clinical trials as having a major role in pre-clinical testing of new medical imaging devices to estimate clinical performance differences in order to target human clinical trials to the most promising devices and most appropriate clinical roles. “A virtual clinical trial system allows testing feasibility of a wide array of virtual presentations of patients on multiple innovations in medical devices and software,” said Dr. Houston Baker, program director of the Imaging Technology Development Branch of the National Cancer Institute. “This method will bring more advanced designs to the real world, which can be tested with more effective clinical trials that were designed and pre-tested in virtual reality.”

The new research is funded as an NIH Academic-Industrial Partnership (1RO1CA154444), designed to provide support for a strategic academic-industry alliance that combines technology innovation know-how with an understanding of the complex process required to develop an invention as a practical, marketable product.


Almanac - May 8, 2012, Volume 58, No. 33