NNSA Nonproliferation R&D Leads to Development of Award-Winning Cancer Screening Device

Press Release
Nov 16, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today congratulated researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Hybridyne Imaging Technologies, Inc. for being recognized with the 2010 North American Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation of the Year. The award is given annually to a company that has demonstrated excellence by bringing unique technologies to new products/applications, positively impacting functionality and customer value.  With funding from NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development, BNL conducted research that ultimately led to the development of ProxiScan TM, a compact, high-resolution gamma camera used for prostate cancer detection.

The imaging camera relies on cadmium-zinc-telluride (CZT) gamma-ray detection material NNSA and BNL are incorporating into the next generation of tools to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and crack down on nuclear smuggling across the globe. In a spin-off of this technology, ProxiScan TM utilizes these CZT sensors to identify and localize cancer tissue in the prostate gland in detail at an early stage, which is important for the successful diagnosis and early treatment of the potentially deadly disease.

“ProxiScan and technologies like it are critical examples of the countless ways our investment in nuclear security is helping provide the tools to tackle broader national challenges,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “Promoting strong science and investing in research and development is critical to improving our ability to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and material. It is particularly rewarding to see those same technologies used to save lives on a daily basis.”

CZT sensors are room-temperature devices that detect the radiation emitted by sources such as dirty bombs and special nuclear material while differentiating nuclear threats from harmless, naturally occurring radioactive materials.  This capability is critical to supporting NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism and emergency response missions.

While developed for nonproliferation purposes, CZT materials have numerous medical, industrial, scientific, environmental and homeland-security applications.  With ProxiScan TM, Hybridine has demonstrated that CZT-based sensors are ideal for minimally invasive medical imaging, allowing physicians to obtain higher quality images of abnormal tissue and use smaller amounts of a radiological tracer.  Currently used for prostate cancer diagnosis, CZT-based sensors can also be used for imaging other cancers, such as cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers and can be optimized for use as a surgical probe that guides the removal of cancerous tumors.

Hybridyne Imaging Technologies, based in Toronto, Canada, is a company that specializes in the development of compact gamma cameras for nuclear medicine studies.  ProxiScan TM was developed under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.   

NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development has been the principal sponsor funding the development of CZT detection material at BNL.

For more information on NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development, click here.

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            Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.