UTA and UT Southwestern partner to improve accuracy of cancer radiation therapy delivery

Researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington and University of Texas Southwestern are collaborating on two projects to improve the accuracy of the delivery of cancer radiation therapies and minimize the exposure of healthy tissues.

For one project, Mingwu Jin, UTA assistant professor of physics, is working with Xun Jia and Yiping Shao of UT Southwestern’s Department of Radiation Oncology to simulate the effect in the body of heavy ion cancer therapies.

“Heavy ion cancer therapies are an option for terminal cancer where conventional radiation is not effective, but delivery of therapy has to be more precise as the radiation levels are much higher,” Jin said. “We are using UT Southwestern’s database on cancer patients to simulate monitoring the effects of the therapy in the human body, with an aim to develop a new real-time dose monitoring technique that improves the precision of delivery.”

This $100,000 two-year seed grant forms part of UT Southwestern’s initiative to build a heavy ion therapy facility and a National Particle Therapy Research Center, which would be the first of its kind in the United States.  The study will prepare preliminary data for a larger scale study and ultimately a real patient trial.

Jin has also been awarded a $153,543 National Institutes of Health grant, in collaboration with Jing Wang and Xun Jia from UT Southwestern, to improve the quality of image-guided radiotherapy techniques that allow for direct visualization of the target and relevant anatomy. This technology enables physicians to monitor the dose delivered to patients and update their treatment as needed.

“As X-ray photons pass through the body there is a scatter effect that reduces the quality of the imaging as the photons do not move in a straight line,” Jin said. “Our project is to use a physics model that takes into account the effects of scatter to reconstruct the images used by physicians to estimate dosage needs for treatment.”

This project, which focuses specifically on X-ray cone-beam computed tomography techniques, “should reduce the need for manually tuned scatter correction and help ensure dosage errors reach clinically acceptable levels of less than two percent,” Jin added.

Alex Weiss, chair of the UTA Department of Physics, emphasized that this new research reflects UTA’s increasing focus on both data-driven discovery and health and the human condition within the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“Jin’s work will employ big data analysis and physics models to improve technologies used to deliver cancer therapy and ultimately improve patient care,” Weiss said. “These collaborations with UT Southwestern also demonstrate clearly the role that a scientific research institution like UTA can play to advance knowledge needed by medical institutions.”

In addition to his research in medical physics, Mingwu Jin is also currently participating in a $7.3 million national initiative led by Yue Deng, a UTA associate professor of physics, to develop a next generation space weather simulator capable of predicting energy distributions during space weather events with a much higher degree of accuracy than existing systems.

Jin received his bachelor’s degree in space physics and master’s degree in communication and information systems from Peking University in Beijing, China. He earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. 

He has extensive research experience in medical imaging, spatiotemporal image reconstruction and data processing, and mixed-signal systems. His research interests include applying mathematical methods and physical principles to solve practical problems, particularly in medical physics and space physics.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php