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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) measures and visualizes cellular and molecular processes in vivo. With the broad availability of on-site 68Ge/68Ga-generators, 68Ga-labeled radioligands are extensively used in PET imaging of various tumors. Consequently, optimal 68Ga-PET imaging is highly important for staging and follow-up of oncological diseases. However, PET imaging is generally optimized for 18F which is the most frequently used PET radionuclide in clinical practice. Therefore, off-the-shelf reconstruction and processing algorithms don’t take into account the specific physical characteristics of other PET radionuclides such as a larger positron range which is especially relevant for 68Ga. This larger positron range, due to the emission of higher energy positrons, results in a degraded spatial resolution of 68Ga-PET imaging which in turn leads to a suboptimal quantification and detection of small tumor lesions and thereby hampers the diagnostic accuracy of 68Ga-PET imaging.
For this PhD, we will focus on a 68Ga-specific modeling of the PET detector response such that an optimal and uniform spatial resolution and image quality can be achieved for 68Ga imaging, in line with the reconstructed resolution and image quality for 18F-PET imaging. Next to a 68Ga-specific PET reconstruction approach, we will focus on deep learning encoder decoder networks to reduce the impact of noise on the image quality and to recover high count PET data with from low count measurements. This will allow an overall reduction of the administered dose and radiation burden to patients and increase the cost effectiveness of 68Ga-PET imaging procedures as currently neuroendocrine tumor and prostate cancer targeting 68Ga radioligands have been increasingly employed. Optimization and thorough validation of this 68Ga-specific corrections algorithm will be performed through realistic simulations as well as real-life measurements on PET/CT and PET/MRI systems available at the KU Leuven and Maastricht University Medical Center+ (MUMC+). Finally, the image quality, quantification and lesion detectability of the newly developed 68Ga-specific reconstruction algorithm will be compared to commercially available reconstruction algorithms and clinically evaluated for oncologic 68Ga-PET imaging in a prospective patient study to demonstrate the added diagnostic value.
We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with preferably a master’s degree in (medical) physics, mathematics, computer sciences or (bio)engineering. Students currently in the final year of their Master’s are certainly encouraged to apply. As a candidate, you have a high interest in medical imaging, algorithm development and image analysis. In addition, you eagerly want to learn about the biomedical/biological interpretation of quantitative data in close interaction with medical doctors. Therefore, good communication and interpersonal skills as well as good English proficiency are mandatory. In addition, you should be able to work independently, take initiative, and do creative problem solving.
Fixed-term contract: 4 years.
We offer a full-time position, in a multidisciplinary, international and exciting research environment embedded in clinics with a variety of medical imaging modalities. As this vacancy concerns a joint position in the Maastricht University Medical Center+ and KU Leuven, you will have the possibility to work in the center of Europe, close to all major European cities in a region with a high quality of life.
This position is offered for four years. The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended for another 3 years, which happens in the vast majority of cases.
Your salary would be € 2.395,- gross per month in the first year up to € 3.061,- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-candidate salary scale. An 8% holiday and an 8.3% year-end allowance is also provided. Each year an evaluation will take place.
The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl > Support > UM employees.
Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 20,000 students and 4,700 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. For more information, visit www.maastrichtuniversity.nl.
Maastricht University Medical Center+ (The Netherlands)
The radiology department of the Maastricht University Medical Center+ (MUMC+) comprises all applications of medical imaging for patient care (diagnostics and treatment) and clinical scientific research. Imaging, and in particular nuclear medicine, is a multidisciplinary field in which (nuclear) radiologists, medical physicists, radiochemists, pharmacists, radiation protection experts, technicians and scientists are involved.
As medical imaging is considered to play a pivotal role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, state-of-the-art medical imaging equipment (PET/CT, PET/MRI, SPECT/CT, US, CR, CT, (high-field) MRI, etc.) is available at the radiology department of the MUMC+.
KU Leuven (Belgium)
Situated in Belgium, in the heart of Western Europe, KU Leuven has been a center of learning for nearly six centuries. Today, it is Belgium's largest university and, founded in 1425, one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe.
The Medical Imaging Research Center (MIRC) is an interdisciplinary research center in the University Hospital Gasthuisberg. The focus lies on fundamental and translational research in medical imaging and image processing. The center is a joined initiative of the KU Leuven (Biomedical Sciences) and the University Hospitals Leuven. Over 100 engineers, physicians and physicists are working closely together with bio-scientists and clinicians. The MIRC-members are the department of Electrical Engineering (PSI), the department of Imaging and Pathology (Radiology and Nuclear Medicine), the department of Cardiovascular Sciences, the department of Neurosciences and the department of Radiotherapy.
Within MIRC, the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (NMMI) research group performs groundbreaking translational research on innovative molecular imaging technologies. We use Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and highly specific PET radiotracers as a key technology to gain insight into disease and drug mechanisms at a molecular level. Within our research group, a multidisciplinary team of physicians, physicists/engineers and radio-pharmacists continuously work on translating new PET radiotracers from a development and preclinical stage into a clinical setting to provide new diagnostic and biomarker tools and support innovative drug development.
For this translation ‘from bench to bedside’, the associated PET data acquisition and analysis is crucial for the accurate quantification of the PET signal. This involves the optimal design of the experiments, dynamic imaging with motion management and the appropriate compartmental modeling to quantify tracer kinetics. State of the art multimodal imaging infrastructure is available, including simultaneous PET-MRI and microPET/CT/MRI.
Maastricht University (UM)
Universiteitssingel 40, 6229 GR, Maastricht
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