Prostate Cancer Radiotherapy
By the end of the summer, we had created a process to take image slice stacks, turn them into 3d models, then smooth and clean the 3d models so they could be 3d printed. This allows doctors to more easily convey a physical understanding of their treatment plan to patients. We then used the digital 3d model to identify spatial points of interest (tumor, nearby nerve bundles, muscle) and place dosimetry measurement units at those locations. The device we created allows us to adjust the placement of these dosimeters by sliding 8-position dosimeter holders along four tracks within a cylinder. The cylinder was filled with ultrasound gel to mimic the radiation attenuation of soft tissue then placed in a cylindrical hole in an anthropomorphic dummy for imaging.
This project was my first serious use of 3d printing and my most free-form project experience in my time at Olin. Once Professor Lee gave us the initial problem statement and research plan for the summer, my partner and I had complete free reign over how and what we did and when we did it. He checked in with us often, but the freedom to guide our experiences and the freedom to make (then fix) our own mistakes often was a great learning experience. Retrospectively, this is much like how research is run where I work now, in the MCube lab. I appreciate this flexibility and freedom from not only a learning perspective, but also believe it makes sense in research because as long as you’re pushing then envelope with worth-while research, there is no one in the world that can tell you exactly what to do. I find that fascinating.
In my final summer between Olin years, I chose to do research with Professor Chris Lee on creating a medical device for prostate cancer radiotherapy. Our task was two-fold: first, finish designing the process of generating smooth prostate models from MRI or CT scans; and second, creating a device to verify the radiation distribution in a prostate cancer treatment plan. Over the summer, we worked with MDs and Radiologists at Boston University Medical Center to understand the problem and develop our solutions.