Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is currently being used to establish if a patient diagnosed with cancer has developed metastasis in other organs in the body. This test is therefore used to decide the type of procedure to follow, usually based on chemo – and radio – therapies, but not for preventive screening. This decision is motivated by the cost of the procedure, by the reduced number of scanners in each oncological unit and the radiation dose to patients.
In this project, we’re proposing to use the latest developments in scintillators, photo-detectors, electronics, quantum detection methodologies, system miniaturisation and data handling, storage and transmission to build a proof of concept compact, and therefore wearable PET scanner. This system will improve the procedure used in the chain of preventive screening becoming a valid alternative for scanning a large number of patients with family history or simply in the age group more at risk to develop the disease while limiting the use of radiotracer and consequent absorbed dose as a consequence of a longer data taking. This would be possible by populating entirely the wearable jacket with detectors. In this case the gamma emissions would be continuous and could benefit of a data taking time compatible with the half-life of currently used positron emitters of about 24 hours allowing high statistics to be accumulated, fast detection and noise rejection times.
Movement detectors (accelerometers as well as gyros) could be integrated in the jacket and used as triggers to suppress data taking during harsh/fast movements avoiding bad data storage. The success of this project would therefore open a new possibility of early diagnosis of cancer with rapid medical treatments and probability of full recovery to a larger fraction of the population at risk.
In this one-year feasibility study we propose to investigate the latest scintillating materials, their coupling with silicon photomultipliers, the miniaturisation of the coincidence and readout chain of the detection system, wireless data transmission and data analysis and the wearable jacket material and design for a WPET system capable of reliable positron emission data reconstruction.
The jacket material, its layout to host the needed batteries, electronics and control as well as its comfort and fashionable look would also be part of the research as a necessary psychological support for the patient wearing it. This preliminary study will also provide a Geant4 simulation of the system and a study to suppress fake coincidences of the 511 keV gammas emitted back-to-back by the electron-positron annihilation accounting for a long data-taking time and a moving system. Noise suppression will be based on a movement suppression system embedded in the detector and on the quantum properties of the two emitted photons, which would obey particular detection criteria.