College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Spring/Summer 2003
Featured articles

Taming turbulence: Understanding the equations

Exploiting friction can make MEMS work

New boundaries: Experiments verify ion behavior in plasmas

Engineers develop new prostate-cancer treatment plan

Conference to address state energy crisis

Regular Features

Message from the chair

Department news

New faculty: Joseph Bisognano and Dennis Whyte

Student news


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Engineers develop new prostate-cancer treatment plan

Photo of Associate Professors Doug Henderso and Bruce Thomadsen

Associate Professors Doug Henderson (left) and Bruce Thomadsen are pursuing patents on their method to speed treatment planning for prostate-cancer patients.
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Decorative initial cap Tn one method of treating prostate cancer, called brachytherapy, doctors implant 50 to 100 radioactive iodine-125 or palladium-103 “seeds” (pictured with the penny below), each just a few millimeters long, in the gland to eradicate diseased tissue. To plan the seeds’ placement for maximum effectiveness and minimal damage to healthy tissue, they map an ultrasound view of the prostate on a 3-D grid, and use optimization software to calculate several sets of possible seed locations and determine which configuration will work best.

Photo of radioactive "seeds" used to treat prostate-cancer
Radioactive seeds used to treat prostate cancer
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Inspired by a reactor physics technique called adjoint—or “backward”—transport, Associate Professor Douglass Henderson, Medical Physics Associate Professor Bruce Thomadsen and graduate student Sua Yoo have developed a method that could reduce the time of this treatment-planning step from as long as 40 minutes to a couple of seconds. Using the adjoint information, they assign a numerical rank to each possible seed location, based on its potential to deliver radiation where it’s needed. The greedy algorithm optimization software then computes the best seed arrangement. This method also could make it easier for doctors to plan treatments using combinations of seeds with varied characteristics.


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Date last modified: Monday, 16-July-2003 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 14-July-2003