Chalmers recruits leading Microwave Imaging Professor

Professor Paul Meaney is the world leading expert in the field of microwave imaging for biomedical applications. The recruitment further strengthens Chalmers already prominent research within medical diagnostics and treatment based on microwave technology.
Microwave imaging is an important emerging imaging modality that has vast potential in many medical applications. Professor Paul Meaney is conducting research in several different application areas, with a primary focus on diagnostics and monitoring of breast cancer treatment.

Patients who are treated with chemotherapy before surgery can, using microwave imaging, be monitored to see how well the tumor is responding to the drugs.

“By monitoring the patients we can tell if the tumor is responding to the treatment or not. And if not, the treatment can be adjusted appropriately at an early stage. The chemotherapy is given typically for 6 months, which means there is a great value in monitoring how the patient is responding”, says Professor Paul Meaney.

There are several other imaging technologies used today, but they are either expensive, invasive, or involve exposure to radiation and therefore not suitable for repeated exams.

Initially, Professor Meaney will be sharing his time between Dartmouth and Chalmers, and his ongoing work will give a high profile to projects at Chalmers. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, NIH and in collaboration with General Electric's (GE's) Global Research Center, Dr. Meaney is deploying multiple systems for monitoring of breast cancer treatment – one system will be at Dartmouth, one at the University of Massachusetts and one possibly at Chalmers.

How does it work?
Several antennas are placed surrounding the breast. Microwaves are transmitted from one antenna, into the breast tissue, are refracted and attenuated in various patterns depending on the tissue’s composition, and hence are received by the other antennas. Each antenna takes a turn in transmitting, until the breast is illuminated from all directions.

“In the images, we can then see that regions of high conductivity correspond to the tumors, low conductivity to normal tissue, and unlike other imaging techniques, body mass index (indicating the amount of body fat), age or breast density does not appear to affect the results”, says Paul Meaney.

He is clearly excited about microwave imaging and what it can add to existing imaging technologies and diagnosis. The greatest challenge in all imaging technologies is to improve the specificity, which is the ability to verify what the images are showing us.

“With microwave imaging, we can bring specificity to the problem. The doctors really need to be able to diagnose abnormalities with imaging technologies, and hopefully avoid having to perform invasive procedures such as biopsies”, says Paul Meaney.

Microwave technology is also advantageous because it is non-ionizing, which means no harmful radiation. Paul Meaney has been working with microwaves for many years, and he has noted that the word immediately gives people the wrong picture of the technology, and he repeatedly needs to clarify its harmlessness.

“The microwaves used for medical imaging have a typically radiation of 1 mW. An ordinary cellphone radiates 1W, so if you are comfortable with using your cellphone, then you will definitely not have a problem with microwave imaging”, says Paul Meaney.

A future at Chalmers
The recruiting of Professor Meaney has been enabled by funding from the Chalmers Foundation, a funding of 20 MSEK during 2015-2020, as part of the Foundations strategic investment projects. And Paul Meaney seems genuinely happy to have been given the opportunity. He points out that Chalmers has some interesting companies in the region, and we conduct pioneering work in taking microwave imaging research to clinical trials and products. He is very familiar with the Biomedical Engineering research group at Chalmers.

“I have known Mikael Persson and Andreas Fhager for quite some time and there are some important commonalities between our works. I bring some expertise on my side, but there are also synergies in what we want to do.”

Professor Mikael Persson, Head of the Biomedical Engineering division at Chalmers, agrees.
“Professor Meaney is undoubtedly the world leader in the field of microwave imaging for biomedical applications, and with an international network second to none. This recruitment has significantly strengthened the research group at Chalmers”, says Mikael Persson.

It turns out, that Paul Meaney’s family also has a personal interest in coming to Sweden. His wife’s grandmother was born in Eskilstuna so they have distant relatives here.

Text and photo: Malin Ulfvarson

Short bio:

Professor Paul Meaney, Department of Signals and Systems, Division of Signal Processing and Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, Hanover, NH. Research interests include microwave imaging for biomedical applications; microwave antenna design; thermal modeling and system design for focused ultrasound surgery applications. He received his PhD in Engineering Sciences, at Dartmouth College in 1995. He is also an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

Chalmers has a world leading position in microwave-based diagnostics of stroke, and is a leader in microwave imaging with strengths in the next generation of algorithms and classification. Chalmers also has a leading position in the general area of microwave technology. Through its centres CHASE, GigaHertz and MedTech West it has a unique research environment.

Research group: Biomedical Electromagnetics, Department of Signals and Systems, Chalmers

Page manager Published: Wed 11 Jan 2017.