Making medicine 'smarter'

November 03, 2005

As much as patients would like for the word "doctor" to mean "all-knowing," unfortunately, this will never be the case. Human fallibility on the part of medical professionals sometimes leads to devastating misdiagnoses that can result in additional suffering, or even death, for their patients.

But there is hope for better, more accurate medical diagnoses through the development of new technologies, and one Florida State University researcher is putting her engineering knowledge to work to develop tools for more accurately diagnosing breast cancer.

Anke Meyer-Baese is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering. Her work focuses on electrical and computer engineering, with a specialization in methods of artificial intelligence that can be applied to medical imaging.

Meyer-Baese recently became the first College of Engineering faculty member to receive a National Institutes of Health Career Award, which comes with $695,000 in research funding. With the money, she will lead a five-year project to give doctors a new tool to better diagnose breast cancer. The aggressive disease claims the lives of more than 40,000 American women each year -- so a diagnostic tool that will allow patients to begin a course of treatment as early as possible is urgently needed.

Meyer-Baese hopes to utilize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -- which holds promise in better detection of hard-to-find cases of breast cancer -- to provide doctors with the more critical eyes of a computer. Despite the incredible potential of MRI technology, which cranks out at least 200 scans for a single patient, the sheer volume of images can be daunting for human eyes to evaluate.

Meyer-Baese is developing computer software to mimic the way a radiologist analyzes all of that information -- and to do it better and faster.

"The outcome of the proposed research is expected to have substantial implications in health care by contributing to the improved diagnosis of indeterminate breast lesions by non-invasive imaging," Meyer-Baese said. "We will deliver a flexible and reusable software system in MR mammography."

Meyer-Baese said she was "thrilled" to hear that she had been chosen for an NIH Career Award.

"I was very excited, because I can do research in advancing breast cancer research, train students in biomedical engineering and promote interdisciplinary research at FSU," she said.
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