In 2015, Dr Canan Dağdeviren (seen right) was busy with her post-doctoral fellowship at MIT in Boston when she received news that her aunt, then living in the Netherlands, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, it was a particularly aggressive form of the disease and her aunt passed away within six months of the original diagnosis. However, Dağdeviren was able to spend time with her aunt which allowed them to discuss how things might have turned out if there had been a method available for early detection of the cancer. That’s when she decided to develop such a system.
Dağdeviren has had an interesting and varied academic journey to date. Born in Turkey, she earned an undergraduate degree in engineering physics in Ankara before enrolling for a master’s degree in Istanbul. Then, with the benefit of a Fulbright Scholarship she graduated with a PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her thesis included research on a piezoelectric energy harvester that converted mechanical energy from internal organ movement into electrical energy to power implanted medical devices such as a cardiac pacemaker.
A recently published article by Dağdeviren and co-workers in Science Advances, entitled “Conformable ultrasound breast patch for deep tissue scanning and imaging,” demonstrates that she has met the commitment she made to her aunt. Seen at left is the wearable patch incorporated within a bra (© Daoudwiki). The team commented, “For use in practical applications, there are additional advantages such as re-usability, ease of operation, and feasibility for at-home continuous monitoring of breast abnormalities when lesion dimensions do not yet exceed 2 cm.”
Their device is based on standard ultrasound technology and employs a novel piezoelectric material, enabling a small form factor. In order to image the whole breast, the patch must be moved to six different positions. The team does not believe their scanner will replace mammography as the primary screening modality but could be used by women at home between their annual mammograms.
In addition to testing their device in the laboratory, Dağdeviren and her team were also able to demonstrate its ability to detect cysts in a 71-year-old patient with a history of benign cysts. Seen at right (© Science Advances) is an ultrasound image of a cyst identified by a blue dashed circle. In a video interview with AuntMinnie.com, Dağdeviren said: “This was a dream from eight years ago but now it’s real,” and she went on to explain she was planning to launch a company to commercialise the technology.