MGH Research Scholars Program
The MGH Research Scholars Program was established to support early career researchers with innovative yet unproven ideas that have the potential to transform the future of medicine. Funded 100% through philanthropy, this program gives researchers the freedom and flexibility they need to follow the science wherever it leads. History has shown that brilliant scientists who are given free rein to explore new frontiers make the greatest, often unexpected, advances.
MGH Research Scholar Lawrence Wald, PhD, is investigating the use of Magnetic Particle Imaging to improve the imaging and diagnosis of breast cancer.
Dr. Wald and his team are developing and testing a prototype breast cancer detector and imager using the newly introduced method of Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI).
Their goal is to demonstrate the first use of MPI in humans, and they have chosen breast cancer as a target due to the societal importance of this disease and the fact that the breast, as a small, localized, externally-accessible body part, is well suited to MPI.
MPI uses magnetometers (instruments that measure the direction, strength or change in magnetic fields) to detect small magnetic nanoparticles that are introduced to the blood (via injection). These particles can be engineered to stick to molecular targets on cancer cells. If there are no cancer cells, the nanoparticles will pass harmlessly through the bloodstream.
Our first device will be a hand-held magnetometer detector, which will simply screen for the presence of particles in the breast, (and thus cancer) and indicate a rough location of the tumor cells.
Our second device is a full-fledged imaging tool, which will be able to show the distribution of particles and thus provide a better indication of the size and shape of the tumor.