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Space technology to refine cancer treatment

University of Leicester senior researcher to discuss medical applications of space technology
Space scientists at the University of Leicester are to describe how equipment developed for studying distant stars and far-off galaxies can now effectively be applied to detecting cancer tumours.

In a public lecture to be delivered at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 26 January, Dr John Lees, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre will discuss ‘Biomedical Imaging Using Space Instrumentation’. The lecture is taking place at 6.30pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Ken Edwards building and is free to attend.

Dr Lees aims to show how instruments developed to look at the stars can also benefit medical applications. The lecture will focus on how new technological advancements in space technology can be applied to medical science using the example of a newly developed hand held gamma camera which is developed from technology employed on the ESA XMM Newton and NASA Swift space missions, utilising technology which has the potential to refine detection of cancerous tumours.

Dr Lees said:

“I am very keen to show everyone that space technology can have practical applications and doesn’t need to just be confined to space.

“Currently, with tumour detection in cancer patients, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where tumours are in the body. This is often done with the injection of radiolabel but isn’t entirely accurate. However, this gamma camera will be taken into theatre and allows surgeons to get the camera close to the patient, enabling identification of the source of the tumour by taking an image from the outside, pinpointing its location.

“The equipment in use at the moment; however it is big and static, housed in a special room so the patient needs to be taken to the camera. We aim to bring the camera to the patient with this application of space technology.”

Dr Lees will introduce the heritage of the technology and explain how its applications can be made safe for this purpose, exemplifying how instruments developed to look at stars can also be of benefit to the medical community.

Event organiser and Coordinator of the Leicester Physics Centre, Dr Wright commented:

“I am very excited about John’s lecture. It is particularly pleasing that he will be talking about new technology developed at the University of Leicester in the Space Research Centre and that this technology is helping to improve the diagnosis of cancers. In addition, the talk will help to strengthen links between departments such as Physics and Astronomy and the biomedical sciences.

“One good example of an application of this gamma camera is in the detection of breast cancer tumours. I believe that using the camera can mean that they can accurately locate the tumour and, as a result, little tissue has then to be removed. Until now such surgery has been much more invasive.”

The one-hour lecture is sponsored by the Institute of Physics and is taking place on Tuesday 26 January at 6.30pm in Lecture Theatre 2 of the Ken Edwards building. For further details or to book a place, contact Kiri Rhodes via or 0116 252 3570 during office hours, or Dr Darren Wright via

This lecture is a part of a series of public lectures organised by the Leicester Physics Centre .

Press Office Contact:
Ather Mirza
University of Leicester Press Office
Division of Marketing & Communications
University of Leicester
Tel: 0116 252 3335
Twitter: @UniofLeicsNews

- A member of the 1994 Group of universities that shares a commitment to research excellence, high quality teaching and an outstanding student experience.
Winner of Outstanding Student Support award, Times Higher 2009/10
Named University of the Year by Times Higher (2008/9) Shortlisted (2006, 2005) and by the Sunday Times (2007)
Ranked top with Cambridge for student satisfaction amongst full time students taught at mainstream universities in England
Ranked as a Top 20 UK university by the Sunday Times, Guardian,Times and UK Complete University Guide, published in The Independent
Ranked in world’s top 3% of universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong International Index, 2005-08 and the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings
Students’ Union of the Year award 2005, short listed 2006 and 2007

Ather Mirza | University of Leicester
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