The Department of Medical Physics, led by Joseph O. Deasy, is responsible for the development of technologies that are used to diagnose and treat cancer at MSK.
In collaboration with its physicians, researchers, and staff, the department has been a recognized world leader in the development of radiotherapy treatment and imaging technologies used to diagnosis cancer, guide treatment decisions, and monitor response to therapy.
The department is primarily responsible for the quality assurance of more than 50,000 medical instruments used at MSK, including mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and hospital telemetry devices. The department also ensures the safety of various forms of radiation therapy used throughout MSK.
Medical Physics employs more than 300 physicists, engineers, and staff members who help plan and carry out many imaging and therapy procedures at MSK and its regional centers each day.
In addition to clinical and quality assurance responsibilities, the department maintains a large research and development effort. This includes more than 80 faculty members who are devoted to advancing these technologies and ultimately improving the care of people with cancer.
The Biomedical Engineering Service works to ensure the safety, operating effectiveness, and regulatory compliance of electronic biomedical instruments used at MSK for patient care, laboratory functions, and research. The service also investigates new and evolving technologies and how they can be used in the clinical environment.
The service is divided into five sections:
- Clinical & Radiological Engineering
- Biomedical Electronics
- Biomedical Inventory Management
- Biomedical Systems
- Mechanical Instrumentation & Engineering
Division of Radiotherapy Physics
The Division of Radiotherapy Physics provides support for all radiation therapy treatments delivered across the MSK network. Its activities include clinical treatment planning for external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy, brachytherapy source calibration, and linear accelerator calibration and dosimetry.
The division is staffed by approximately 120 medical physicists and dosimetrists who serve all MSK locations. They are divided into five sections:
- External Beam Treatment Planning
- Brachytherapy Physics
- Radiation Dosimetry
- Regional Care Network
- Quality Improvement
Physics Computer Service
The Physics Computer Service supports the computer-related needs of the Department of Medical Physics, Department of Radiation Oncology, and Department of Radiology. This group is responsible for the design, development, and maintenance of computer hardware and software systems for brachytherapy treatment planning, external beam treatment planning, picture archiving and communications (PACS), and other related activities.
Molecular Imaging and Therapy Physics
The Molecular Imaging and Therapy Physics section supports the operation of all the nuclear imaging equipment at MSK, including gamma cameras, positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, counting equipment, and related computer systems. This group also provides extensive support to the Small Animal Imaging Core Facility. It includes a microirradiator as well as autoradiography and histology capabilities.
In addition, the service provides immediate first-line assistance for the Department of Medical Physics’ extensive computer and networking hardware and software, reducing user downtime. It also supports a number of MSK’s clinical trials involving PET, biodistribution, compartmental analysis, dosimetry, and radionuclide therapy.
Small Animal Imaging Core Facility
Diagnostic X-ray Quality Assurance Laboratory
The Diagnostic X-Ray Quality Assurance Laboratory (DXQAL) provides technical assistance and advice to the Department of Radiology throughout MSK’s network. This includes specification, evaluation, and testing of new x-ray equipment, re-calibration of existing units, dosimetry related to patients, and recommendations to reduce the dose of radiation needed to produce the best quality images. The laboratory provides similar services to MSK’s Dental Service, the Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Service, the Urology Service, the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Admissions.
The DXQAL staff also regularly surveys equipment that contains a total of more than 125 x-ray tubes at MSK’s main campus and regional centers.
Every physicist in the DXQAL group is certified by New York and New Jersey to legally conduct quality assurance and control procedures in those states. In addition to performing their own sophisticated tests on radiology equipment, they also oversee routine quality control testing carried out by technologists in MSK’s radiology and mammography areas.
Animal Imaging Core Facility
One of the most extensive facilities of its kind in the world, the Animal Imaging Core Facility provides MSK investigators with unique noninvasive imaging capabilities. The facility enables researchers to noninvasively detect, localize, and biologically characterize primary and metastatic cancer cells in living small-animal (i.e., rodent) models, including xenograft, transgenic, and knock-out tumor models. This is accomplished through noninvasive imaging techniques such as gamma camera imaging; single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT); positron emission tomography (PET) of radiolabeled tracers; transmission computed tomography (CT); optical (bioluminescent and fluorescent) imaging; and magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy (MRI/MRS).
The facility consists of three separate, independently operated components:
- The microPET and related instruments.
- The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and spectroscopy systems.
- The optical imaging systems.
The laboratory also houses a complete electronics shop equipped with a Hewlett-Packard vector impedance meter, network/waveform analyzer, two frequency generators, and oscilloscopes. Services include MRI/MRS, microPET, microSPECT, microCT, bioluminescence, fluorescence, and quantitative autoradiography.
MRI and Spectroscopy
The MRI and Spectroscopy section is responsible for the continued safe operation of the clinical magnetic resonance (MR) scanners.
The group also works to improve MRI for better cancer detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Its members develop new MRI technology for clinical research and care, investigate innovative applications of nuclear MR, and assist in specifying, selecting, and acquiring new MR instruments for MSK.
The Predictive Informatics service was formed to better coordinate and focus the clinical use of massive amounts of imaging data being accrued at MSK, including machine learning. Predictive models built using image-derived factors can help guide care decisions in radiology, radiation oncology, and other patient management scenarios that rely heavily on the use of radiologic images.
Image-derived information, together with clinical, laboratory, and biological data, can be used to better define future cancer risk (e.g., based on MRI screening); optimize treatment decisions (e.g., treatment planning in radiation oncology); and discover biological markers to measure normal and cancerous processes in the body and response to treatment (e.g., PET/MRI).
The Predictive Informatics service serves several related needs, including:
- Developing predictive models used to guide radiation therapy treatment planning.
- Offering image processing and informatics support to researchers needing image-derived data to guide clinical decisions.
- Providing multi-modality image registration methods and expertise.
- Organizing image-based data.
- Providing core programming and machine learning support to build predictive models.
Medical Health Physics
The Medical Health Physics service provides guidance and oversight to staff throughout MSK who use radioactive material and devices that produce radiation. The group facilitates ongoing compliance with applicable institutional and regulatory requirements for the safe and effective application of radiation in patient care, research, and education.