IOP Project

HYMPACT to detect tumours: Listening to breast cancer

Projectnumber: IPD083374
Contact: Dr. ir. S. Manohar
Phone: +31 (0)53 489 31 64

X-ray, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the conventional techniques used for the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. However, these techniques have limitations. Dr. ir. Srirang Manohar of the Biophysical Engineering research group at the University of Twente: “The present imaging techniques make it difficult to distinguish between tumours and healthy tissue. This may lead to false positives as well as false negatives.”


Together with partners in the HYMPACT project Manohar will develop a device that can detect tumours effectively, without the use of ionizing radiation such as x-rays. The device combines light and sound to do so. Manohar: “If you shine a light through human tissue, you’ll see only a diffuse glow, not an image. That’s because light scatters in tissue. Our device will still use light, but we do not measure any light. We measure ultrasound. When a five nanosecond-laser pulse hits a haemoglobin molecule, it creates heat. When we shoot pulses at haemoglobin-rich areas, this causes thermal expansion. That leads to ultrasound waves, which can be detected by conventional ultrasound equipment.” As tumours usually contain much more haemoglobin than healthy human tissue, the device will discriminate effectively between healthy and cancerous tissue. The device will use computed tomography (CT)-technology to create two-dimensional slices of the object with high resolution.


The first prototype which used simple technology was tested in 2007 on six patients with breast cancer. The results were satisfactory, says Manohar: “In this project we will get even better results. Apart from the CT geometry we will further optimize our ultrasound detector and lasers. The high-speed multi-element detector will be developed by Oldelft. Further, our partners at the Erasmus Medical Center will measure the optical properties of breast tumours in vivo using optical biopsy needles. These tests will yield the data we need to optimize our laser. Eventually, with this improved instrument doctors will get an extra tool to their disposal, enabling them to detect and diagnose breast cancer more effectively.”

The description of this project is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file:

Adobe Acrobat PDF file  SN PD 5 (106 KB)


University of Twente
Erasmus Medical Centre
Medisch Spectrum Twente