A Comprehensive Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Pathways to Discovery: Winter 2013

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High Performance Computing Facility Assists Researchers with Imaging Needs

Imaging plays an important role in cancer research, both in the clinic and the laboratory. Studying cancer from all angles requires not only state-of-the-art imaging tools, but also the expertise to analyze and integrate the resulting data properly. Such tasks require sophisticated computing power and storage capacity that researchers generally do not have in their own laboratories.

Researchers at the UCCCC can access computing and analysis services from the Image Computing, Analysis, and Repository (ICAR) Facility, one of the UCCCC’s shared resources. The ICAR Facility includes a computing cluster optimized for image processing, analysis, and visualization, and an animal imaging repository (AIR), which provides network file sharing services for animal researchers.

“One of the advantages of the ICAR Facility is that researchers have access to high-speed computing power with real-time interactivity and a fast turnaround,” said Scientific Co-Director Robert M. Nishikawa, PhD. For example, developing a computer algorithm for image processing may take months to a year on a standard desktop computer, but ICAR can complete the task in a matter of days.

From basic consultation to shared development of new analysis software, the ICAR Facility helps researchers who may not have imaging expertise take advantage of state-of-the-art imaging modalities. Services include modeling and simulations, the development of new image analysis methods, data construction and reconstruction, as well as computer-aided diagnosis (CAD). The University of Chicago Medicine pioneered the field of CAD and leads the field of breast imaging. With support from the ICAR Facility, UCCCC researchers are now developing new methods to obtain high quality images while lowering radiation exposure to patients.

ICAR Technical Director Chun-Wai Chan, MS, said, “It’s much easier and more efficient to have the job done by expertly trained personnel within a dedicated core rather than scattered throughout the University.” Staff can perform new emerging techniques, such as image fusion, where images of the same object taken by different modalities are combined.

The ICAR Facility frequently collaborates with the Integrated Small Animal Imaging Research Resource (iSAIRR), a separate UCCCC shared facility that provides comprehensive small animal imaging services. Researchers obtain initial consultation from iSAIRR to identify appropriate imaging studies and to learn of methods to achieve maximum imaging quality. The data generated from imaging studies is stored in the ICAR Facility’s AIR, a centralized repository that streamlines research workflow by storing, retrieving, and backing up data from multiple imaging modalities. After imaging, the ICAR Facility analyzes the data and extracts the desired information. For example, researchers are currently using the Facility’s imaging analysis expertise to measure the effect of treatment on tumor shrinkage.

The ICAR Facility also collaborates with the Human Imaging Research Office’s Biomedical Imaging Repository to develop methods to connect researchers with large imaging databases, which are useful for developing algorithms to detect and diagnose diseases such as cancer by radiologic imaging. These and other ICAR Facility services facilitate groundbreaking cancer research and new collaborations at the UCCCC.

Ernst Lengyel

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