Hoyt and Team Receive Major Grant

Students Compete in Undergraduate Poster Competition

Dr. Kenneth Hoyt, associate professor of bioengineering at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas, recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study three-dimensional super-resolution ultrasound imaging (3D SR-US), specifically for breast cancer detection and treatment in the presurgical, or neoadjuvant, setting. The significant grant will total more than $1.4 million over four years.

“The overarching goal of the funded research project is to develop a new 3D SR-US imaging system and image processing algorithms to improve breast cancer detection and assessment of early response to treatment,” said Hoyt.

Hoyt, director of the Small Animal Imaging Core Facility, recently published research on SR-US in Medical Physics in 2017, the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2018, and the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine in 2019. Hoyt previously applied the imaging techniques to detect skeletal muscle microvascular dysfunction, specifically as a response to type 2 diabetes. Because SR-US has successfully quantified microvascular changes to skeletal muscle including insulin resistance in small animals with diabetes, Hoyt aims to apply the safe, low-cost imaging techniques to breast cancer.

Aggressive breast cancers can display distinctive microvascular characteristics as an ample blood supply is needed for these tumors to grow and metastasize. These microvascular networks can change quickly in response to effective treatment. Currently, physicians must use more invasive techniques such as tissue biopsies to study tissue changes, but the new 3D SR-US imaging system could be used in vivo, or within a whole, living organism. By effectively adapting the 3D SR-US imaging technique to breast cancer biomarkers, the imaging research could ultimately lead to improved breast cancer detection and early response assessment within weeks of starting treatment.

“While super-resolution ultrasound is in its infancy, there is tremendous momentum spurring continued development of this clinically translatable imaging modality,” Hoyt said.

The funded research project will feature broad, multidisciplinary collaboration between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center. Hoyt provides experience in ultrasound instrumentation and signal processing; Dr. Baowei Fei, professor of bioengineering at UT Dallas, provides expertise in quantitative imaging and machine learning; Dr. Shashank Sirsi, assistant professor of bioengineering at UT Dallas, will focus on ultrasound contrast agent development; Dr. Jung-Whan (Jay) Kim, assistant professor of biological sciences at UT Dallas, will focus on cancer biology; and Dr. Basak Dogan, associate professor of radiology and Eugene P. Frenkel Endowed Scholar in Clinical Medicine at UT Southwestern will help guide technology development to facilitate future translational studies in breast cancer patients.