Members of the Department of Medical Physics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are actively developing new methods to address a wide range of imaging, radiotherapy, and engineering challenges in the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. Collaborations among medical physicists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and other clinical investigators help to ensure that the latest developments benefit patients as quickly as possible.
The Department of Medical Physics has a long history of innovation in the areas of radiation oncology (anticancer treatment with precision-controlled radiation beams), nuclear medicine (imaging with radioactive materials), and radiology (non-radioactive imaging, such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging). For example, Memorial Sloan-Kettering was a lead institution in implementing and demonstrating the clinical value of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), now a standard treatment around the world. Areas that our physicists continue to develop, in collaboration with physicians, include image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT); advanced brachytherapy (implanted isotope) methods; quantitative imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) nuclear imaging; and a wide range of new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) applications. Additional areas of focus in our collaborations with partners in other Memorial Sloan-Kettering departments and the Sloan-Kettering Institute include:
- Developing new methods to image the tumor microenvironment by spatially mapping the expression of multiple genes (“genomic imaging”) in pathological samples from animal model tumors
- Developing more-personalized predictors of cancer risk from images using advanced image processing, machine learning, statistical modeling techniques, and biomarkers
- Improving radiotherapy by using image guidance and adapting therapy based on the imaged tumor response
- Developing models to predict both risk of toxicity and the likelihood of tumor control, and using these to plan an optimal course of radiotherapy
- Developing new informatics tools and paradigms to more effectively organize, display, analyze, and understand information in radiology and radiation oncology applications
Within the clinical setting, medical physicists and other physical scientists and engineers work closely with radiation oncologists, radiologists, and other physicians to plan and monitor treatments involving radiation, ultrasound, and lasers. Physicists assess the performance of medical imaging equipment and coordinate the use of nuclear medicine techniques. The Department of Medical Physics has responsibility for the safe use of radiation for our patients and staff, the calibration of radiation-producing equipment and radioactive sources, and the design of special devices for use by other clinical departments. Biomedical engineers within the department work on the safe use of all electrical equipment in patient areas, help maintain equipment, and develop special devices, such as robotic equipment, for patient applications.