Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are using a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a physics-based virtual model that can simulate a patientís breathing in real time. When used in conjunction with existing 3D models, adding the fourth dimension of time could improve the accuracy and effectiveness of radiation treatment for lung and liver cancers.

RPI researchers have formed a multidisciplinary collaboration with the Cancer Therapy & Research Center in San Antonio, TX to develop the 4-D Visible Photographic Man (VIP-Man), an advanced computer model that simulates how radiation affects the organs and tissues in the human body. Real-time simulations could allow doctors to spot the small fractions of time when the lungs, liver, kidneys, and heart are stationary relative to the external radiation beams. These moments during therapy mean that doctors will have more confidence delivering the radiation to a moving tumor.

The key challenge is to develop algorithms that will make the virtual lungs and adjacent tissues move in real time according to realistic tissue biomechanical properties. The physics-based 4-D VIP-Man eventually will be used as a more general anatomical modeling tool for the biomedical community to help patients with respiratory and cardiac diseases. The RPI team plans to create a "family" of virtual patients, ranging in ages and sizes.

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