National Physical Laboratory

'Phantoms' help fight against cancer

Summary

A point-spread phantom
A point-spread phantom

An NPL product, called a 'point-spread phantom', can help hospitals rely upon the screening technique Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to identify early signs of cancer. By viewing the phantom with an OCT machine and analysing the image with NPL software, users can be certain the machine is producing accurate images, which they can rely on for important medical decisions.

Background

A screening technique, known as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), can look beneath the surface of certain materials, notably human tissue. It is higher resolution and much quicker than techniques such as MRI or ultrasound, with no ionising radiation, making it ideal for detecting changes in tissue structure which can indicate the early stages of cancer.

However creating such images requires high precision, and any inaccuracy can lead to incorrect assumptions about cell disruption. This can mean missing opportunities for early, potentially life-saving treatment.

Impact

NPL's point-spread phantoms eliminate the risk of imaging errors in OCT.

The phantoms are translucent cylinders of resin containing specially arranged particles designed to reflect light in a very specific way. By viewing the phantom with an OCT machine and analysing the image with NPL software, users can be certain the machine is producing accurate images, which they can rely on for important medical decisions.

These 'phantoms' also allow manufacturers of OCT technology to meet the necessary standards to guarantee to hospitals that their machines are sufficiently accurate. This will help speed the route to market of products using this technology, and assure hospitals of their reliability.

Michelson Diagnostics was the first UK company to use NPL's phantoms to validate the accuracy of their machines. CEO Jon Holmes said:

"We developed breakthrough technology for imaging living tissue and for detecting diseases, but we needed to validate our performance claims, to provide customers with greater confidence in them. NPL's phantoms and analysis have enabled us to validate our claims beyond doubt, thereby demonstrating the superiority of our scanners and giving us the edge over our competitors. We expect that this validation will give OCT technology the backing it needs to become standard in hospitals around the world, and thereby make an important progression in the battle against cancer."

For further information, please contact Peter Woolliams

Read more technical information in P H Tomlins, Point-Spread Function Phantoms for Optical Coherence Tomography, NPL Report OP 2 (2009)

Find out more about NPL's work in Healthcare

Last Updated: 9 Oct 2012
Created: 11 Nov 2010