UCLA Biomedical Physics Graduate Training in Breast Cancer

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Investigator(s): Virgil Cooper, Ph.D. -
Award Cycle: 1999 (Cycle V) Grant #: 5TB-0070 Award: $187,981
Award Type: Training Program Award
Research Priorities
Detection, Prognosis and Treatment>Imaging, Biomarkers, and Molecular Pathology: improving detection and diagnosis

Initial Award Abstract (1999)
The UCLA Biomedical Physics Graduate Program has provided graduate education in Medical Physics and Radiation Biology for 30 years. It is the third Ph.D. program in Biomedical Physics to be accredited by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. It will award its 117th Ph.D. this spring.

At this time, its 44 graduate students are specializing in either Medical Imaging, Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Oncology, or Radiation Biology. Many of these students are interested in some aspect of detecting, treating, or preventing breast cancer, but have been unable to pursue these research interests because of a lack of funds for projects in breast cancer related research. This training grant renewal would complete the training of two Ph.D. students currently supported by the training grant and would allow two more students to be trained. In addition, the program requires courses, practical training and participation in seminar series on topics critical to understanding breast cancer, creating a group of future medical school faculty and hospital physicists who are literate in breast cancer related issues.

Those students selected for this training program will have a required course of study, preparing them for general medical physics topics, in addition to the current program's core courses, which will include a course in Breast Imaging Physics and Instrumentation, Medical Ultrasound, a Seminar in Breast Cancer Detection and Treatment, the Breast Center's Multidisciplinary Conference, and the Breast Imaging Center's Pathology-Radiology Correlation Conference. Appreciation of the clinical realities of breast cancer will be provided by requiring at least 36 hours in clinical settings, including radiology mammography reading, interventional procedures, and pathology techniques. At the end of their second year of study, but their first year on this training grant, all students will have selected an area of specialization in breast cancer related research. By the beginning of their third year of graduate study, or second year of this training program, they will be working on a specific research project in breast cancer. The two students who will continue on this grant have one and two years to complete specific Ph.D. projects. Two new students will work on early detection projects in ultrasound and digital mammography.

Many breast cancer researchers have very narrow, specialized understanding of the disease or misunderstand the relationship of their research to breast cancer detection and treatment. Our training program would provide a broad base of knowledge to allow our graduates to be resources for other researchers as well as principal investigators on their own. Our trainees will be particularly well suited to develop research and clinical approaches for improvements in breast cancer detection, for improvement of the positive predictive rate of identifying malignant versus benign lesions (minimizing unnecessary biopsy), and for improvement of the therapeutic ratio in treatment of breast cancer by radiobiological research. The graduates of this program, through their competence and broad scope of training, will have the tools to help to reduce the human and economic costs of breast cancer in California and will be the leaders of the future in breast cancer research.

Final Report (2003)
There were six students who were funded in part by this training grant during its duration, David McElroy, Candace Lewis, Genevieive Wu, Michael Eisenberg, John Sgroi, and Nikita Bezrukiy. All of them completed the necessary coursework and training as outlined in the specific aims for this project, that is, to train graduate students who, during their research and teaching careers, are aware of the needs of clinicians and patients when designing or improving early detection and diagnostic imaging equipment, or when trying to solve technically related medically significant problems.

The specific aims were focused on educating basic scientists in breast cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment in order to facilitate the production of breast cancer researchers from the Biomedical Physics Program. Specifically, the trainees were to take courses in Breast Imaging Physics and Instrumentation and Medical Ultrasound in addition to the core classes that are required in the program. Also, the trainees were to attend radiologist reading sessions and seminars in breast cancer treatment and detection, in the radiology/pathology correlation conference series , as well as the multi-disciplinary conference of the breast center. In addition, the students were to present their research topics in local seminars as well as national conferences. All of these specific aims were met by the trainees.

Each trainee completed the required coursework in addition to attending the conferences and radiologist reading sessions. All have presented their research in our local seminar series or at national conferences. Three of the six trainees are co-authors of peer-reviewed publications in nationally recognized journals, including here.

It is hard to say what the impact of the training will be. We are confident however, that those who were trained under this program have a profound appreciation for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Two of the six students are still enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Candace Lewis is pursuing her Ph.D. in the physics of Radiation Oncology. Genevieve Wu has switched her focus to brain research. Nikita Bezrukiy is pursuing admission to medical school and Dave McElroy is now doing a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany. Michael Eisenberg is pursuing his law degree at UCLA. John Sgroi finished his studies with a Masterís degree and now works at a hospital in the San Fernando Valley.

Evaluation of detector dynamic range in the x-ray exposure domain in mammography: A comparison between film-screen and flat panel detector systems
Periodical:Medical Physiology
Index Medicus: Med. Phys
Authors: Cooper VN, Oshiro T, Cagnon CH, Bassett LW, McLeod-Stockman TM, Bezrukly NV
Yr: 2003 Vol: 30 Nbr: 10 Abs: Pg:2614-2621