Researchers to develop new hybrid PET/MRI system for improved breast cancer diagnosis

News - 17 February 2016 - Webredactie Communication

TU Delft participates in the new Horizon 2020 project HYPMED. Together with recognized European organisations and industry partners, TU Delft is developing a ground-breaking imaging technology for more accurate detection of breast cancer and a better, more personalised, understanding of its response to therapy.

Breast cancer is the most common type of female cancer and continues to be one of the main causes of cancer death in women. Despite the advances made in modern medicine and contemporary targeted therapies, the stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis is still the most important driver of patient survival. This means that there is an obvious and persisting need for an improved early diagnosis of this disease.

Improving diagnosis

The project Digital Hybrid Breast PET/MRI for Enhanced Diagnosis of Breast Cancer, HYPMED for short, will develop a hybrid system combining two medical imaging modalities (MRI and PET) with a biopsy system, for improved diagnosis of breast cancer and personalised therapy control. A European consortium made up of nine partners from leading universities, research organisations and industry has recently obtained 6 M€ funding from the EU to pursue this ambitious research initiative. “The HYPMED project combines visionary clinical expertise with excellence in physical and engineering sciences and the developed technology will greatly help us to choose an appropriate treatment that is exactly right for a given cancer in a given woman”, states, Prof. Christiane Kuhl from University Hospital Aachen and Scientific Coordinator of the project.

TU Delft expertise

TU Delft’s focus in this project is on designing, developing and testing the PET modules of the system. “The mission of the Delft PET group is to invent cost-effective and safe technologies that push the resolution and sensitivity of PET by an order of magnitude, so as to contribute to the development of in vivo molecular imaging (the non-invasive visualization of biomolecular processes within the body) as a tool for personalized and sustainable healthcare. In scope of the recently concluded EU-funded project SUBLIMA, we have developed a new PET detector technology that not only offers unprecedented imaging performance but also is highly compact, a crucial requirement for realizing the HYPMED device,” says Dennis Schaart of the Radiation, Science & Technology department of TU Delft. “The HYPMED project impressed the reviewers of the EU Horizon 2020 research program, who awarded the proposal the highest evaluation score possible. We are very excited with this opportunity to bring in our expertise and contribute to the development of a novel diagnostic platform for breast cancer.”

HYPMED concept, this image shows a zoomed out view of illustration 1. The MRI system is shown in relation to the patient  to give a better feel for the dimensions.

Modular approach

The project`s ambition is to develop a device that can be inserted into any regular clinical MR scanner to transform it into a high-resolution PET/MRI system with an image-guided biopsy option, which can be used to identify even the smallest breast cancer foci and better characterize the cancer as well as its response to therapy. Patients will also benefit as the radiation dose of the new technology will, in contrast to other PET-MRI examinations, be comparable to a regular digital mammogram.

New chapter of medical hybrid imaging 

The HYPMED approach is also likely to be transferrable to other clinical applications, such as prostate cancer detection and hybrid cardiac imaging. “We believe that this will introduce a paradigm shift in the field of PET/MR hybrid imaging with many new applications in other diseases. With the success of the HYPMED project, we will open up a whole new chapter of medical hybrid imaging,” says Prof. Schulz, from the Physics of Molecular Imaging Systems Unit in Aachen.


The HYPMED project started on January 1st, 2016 and involves, over a 4-year period, recognized organisations and industry partners from all over Europe: European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research, AT (Project Coordinator); University Hospital Aachen, DE (Scientific Coordinator), Forschungszentrum Jülich, DE; Medical University of Vienna, AT; Technical University Delft, NL; University Hospital Münster, DE; NORAS MRI Products GmbH, DE; Futura Composites, NL; INTRASENSE, FR; Philips Electronics, NL.

More information 

For more information on the TU Delft contribution to the HYPMED project please contact Dennis Schaart: or Claire Hallewas (TU Delft press officer),, +31 (0)6 4095 3085.

More information on the HYPMED project is available on the website of the Community Research and Development Information Centre of the European Commission and on the website of the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research (EIBIR), the coordinator of the HYPMED project.

PHOTO: HYPMED concept: this image shows a female model on a early artwork illustration of the HYPMED device. The upper torso is fitted on a patient rest (grey) and the breast is located in between PET-detector sensor plates (green). A biopsy device is shown lateral (brown). The woman is located in a 70 cm MRI System (transparent) on top of the system table (white). The MRI sensors are not shown.

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