New Hybrid X-Ray Technique Has Cancer and Pharmaceutical Uses

A new, hybrid x-ray imaging machine developed by Duke University engineers has promising applications in in-surgery cancer diagnoses in addition to quality control and forensic analysis of drugs.

“The technology is a hybrid X-ray system that combines conventional X-ray transmission radiography with X-ray diffraction tomography. The former involves measuring the X-rays that pass straight through an object. The latter involves gathering deflection angle and wavelength information from X-rays that have scattered (or bounced) off of an object, which provide a sort of “fingerprint” unique to that material’s atomic structure.” according to an article in ITN.

The device can help cancer surgeons in the operating room determine whether they’ve gotten out the entirety of a tumor.”Our eventual goal is to have one of these scanners in every operating room so that surgeons can get an instantaneous diagnosis as soon as the cancer is removed, and they can immediately check to see if any cancerous cells are present on the edges,” said Kapadia [an author of the paper as quoted by ITN]. “That way, if there’s any suspicion that they missed some of the cancer, they can immediately go back and get the rest.”

It can also help drug manufacturers control the quality of their drugs and forensic analysts identify adulterated drugs. According to ITN, “The researchers then showed that the scanner could provide a real-time analysis of pharmaceuticals. Not only could this help manufacturers ensure their product is reliable, but it could also be used by police forensics departments or public health campaigns to make sure people are not selling or overdosing on tainted drugs.”

Both conventional x-rays and x-ray diffraction have been used for materials analysis for many years. Combining them to create near-real-time images and molecular analyses extends this technology in new and exciting ways.

The paper is available in the journal Scientific Reports.

Stryker, S., Greenberg, J.A., McCall, S.J. et al. X-ray fan beam coded aperture transmission and diffraction imaging for fast material analysis. Sci Rep 11, 10585 (2021).

Scan of malignant breast lumpectomy. Image d.i shows ‘normal’ breast tissue comprised of 65% adipose and 35% fibroglandular tissue; image d.ii, 100% cancer tissue; image d.iii, 100% fibroglandular tissue.

Unmodified image from the paper ‘X-ray fan beam coded aperture transmission and diffraction imaging for fast material analysis.’ Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.