1. Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Claire Park, and I am a second-year Ph.D. Candidate in Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Fenster at Robarts Research Institute, Western University. I previously completed my Honours Bachelor of Medical Sciences in Medical Biophysics and Applied Mathematics at Western University.
2. Tell us about the importance/impact of receiving a TBCRU Studentship Award supported by the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.
I am incredibly grateful to receive this award. It allows me to commit my time and focus on advancing my research fully, and it has provided me with the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other trainees involved in translational breast cancer research.
3. Tell us about your research. What are you doing, and what problem or problems do you hope to answer or solve?
My work aims to develop a new image-guided biopsy system using positron emission mammography (PEM) and ultrasound to improve the sampling of breast tumours. Current practices for image-guided biopsy are limited. PEM is a breast-specific imaging method that observes tumour activity. By combining functional imaging with an ultrasound-guided biopsy technique, we can improve detection, targeting, and guidance to breast tumours. This will allow for improved diagnosis leading to better treatment and patient outcomes.
4. Why is your research important? What are the possible real-world applications?
Early detection and accurate diagnosis of breast cancer is critical for survival in women with breast cancer. Current methods such as mammograms are less effective for women with dense breasts, which is approximately 50% of women. PEM can detect breast cancer no matter the breast density. My research combines PEM imaging with an ultrasound to develop a system that guides biopsy in real-time. This is especially useful since PEM makes it possible to see tumours that other imaging equipment may not be able to see, and ultrasound-guidance makes sure the biopsy of the tumour is accurate.
5. How did you come up with your research topic/what inspired your research question?
We are working closely with researchers at Radialis Medical, a medical imaging device company based in Thunder Bay. They have recently developed an advanced PEM system with improved detection of small, early-stage tumours at a low imaging dose. When combined with ultrasound-guided expertise from my lab, we can address the research challenge to detect, target accurately, and guide biopsy to sample breast tumours.
6. Who or what got you interested in breast cancer research?
Under the mentorship and expertise of Dr. Aaron Fenster, I was able to learn about image-guided interventions for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This field is continuously expanding due to advancements in medical imaging technology, and I am excited to contribute to breast cancer research from a system development approach.
7. Why do you think breast cancer research matters or is important?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canada. Making breast cancer detection and diagnosis a significant focus of research will transform lives and improve the quality of breast cancer patients. The Breast Cancer Society of Canada (BCSC) and the Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit (TBCRU) makes this a possibility by supporting the students involved in this research.
8. What excites you about your work?
My project is an innovative solution toward improving the detection of breast cancer and biopsy-based diagnosis. It excites me that our system developments have the potential for clinical translation in the near future. I am also excited to collaborate with other scientists, clinicians, and industry leaders for breast cancer research.
9. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
After my Ph.D., I hope to complete my clinical medical physics residency in either diagnostic imaging or radiation therapy. My ultimate goal is to contribute to the advancement of medical physics while being involved in clinical work and cancer research.
10. What do you like to do when you aren’t working on research?
Outside of my research, I have been given the opportunity to co-chair Let’s Talk Cancer Symposium 2020. This event promotes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in cancer research for high school students. You can also catch me playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball or lifting weights at Western Rec.
Support researchers like Claire Park by considering a donation to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. Find out how you can help fund life-saving research, visit bcsc.ca/donate today.