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Molecular imaging (MI) and Proton Therapy (PT) have become fundamental tools for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer. Innovation in this field is very strong aiming at improving the imaging capability. The most important development over the last few years is the use of a novel solid-state photo-detector (Silicon Photomultipliers, SiPMs) that can replace the traditional vacuum-based photo-multiplier tubes. This sensor opens the possibility to combine different imaging modalities and to develop compact, light and portable systems with higher performance.
The scientific objectives of GammaRAD – “a compact, solid-state, gamma ray imaging module for molecular and medical imaging” – are mainly two: the development of an innovative high resolution gamma-ray imaging module (GDM) based on this solid-state technology (SiPMs + ASIC) and its validation for different medical applications with particular emphasis on the proton therapy application. There are three main disciplines involved in the project: microelectronics, nuclear physics and molecular imaging. They correspond to the photo-detection module (the hardware), which is fully solid-state, to the physics process of gamma-ray generation/detection and imaging for diagnosis and treatment of tumors, respectively. The project has permitted the establishment of a Consortium, located in Italy and in the Trento province for the most part, with dependable competencies in the development of tools for biology and medicine, not available considering the partners separately: FBK and PoliMI on micro-electronics, TIFPA on nuclear physics and AtreP on molecular imaging with nuclear instruments.
The main scientific objectives of the GammaRad project are:
I) The development of an innovative, high-performance, solid-state gamma-ray imaging module;
II) The validation of the module performance for molecular imaging applications such as SPECT, intra-operative imaging probes, and preclinical PET systems;
III) The development of a prototype system for prompt gamma imaging in proton therapy and its validation in the field. We aim at providing a new imaging tool to scientists and radiologists working in the molecular imaging field. The gamma imager will have much better performance, when compared to the currently available ones, in terms of spatial and energy resolution, modularity and compactness. Most importantly, such a module will allow the development of innovative systems.
- Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK): IRIS Research Group, Povo (TN), Italy
- Politecnico Di Milano (PoliMI): Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria (DEIB), Milano (MI), Italy
- Trento Institute for Fundamental Physics and Applications (TIFPA), a joint initiative of INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare), Povo (TN), Italy
- Agenzia Provinciale per la Protonterapia (AtreP), Trento, Italy
FBK will take care of the simulation, design, production and characterization of the photodetectors.
The FBK Center for Materials and Microsystems (CMM), with its IRIS research unit, is actively working on the development and production of highly specialized radiation detectors. The IRIS group has more than fifteen-year experience in design, simulation, processing and experimental characterization of these devices. They are produced internally in the MTlab fabrication facility, which is a unique research structure in Italy. The group is strongly committed to the development and optimization of SiPM sensors in different application fields, with particular attention given to the medical imaging field.