Meet our PET specialist
The universal presence of the Greek language supports the fields of medicine, engineering and physics. For some people working in medical imaging, that becomes a distinct advantage.
Dr Charalampos (Harry) Tsoumpas has studied and worked in the field of human molecular imaging for more than 15 years, and obtained his PhD from Imperial College London in 2008. Harry recently won the 2017 Physics in Medicine & Biology (PMB) citations prize for his research paper on software for tomographic image reconstruction.
A PET specialist, he is passionate in pioneering the development of human molecular imaging with PET for the creation of disruptive and cutting edge technologies that will significantly evolve clinical research and healthcare in several fields of Biomedicine (e.g. Cardiovascular Medicine, Neuroscience and Oncology).
In the last few weeks before the second MediSens conference, we carved out some time with Harry to get to know him a little better…
Radiomics is a young field, what benefits can it bring to oncology and other diagnostic imaging?
The amount of imaging data increases but their collective use is not. Multiplexed Imaging together with Radiomics can bring an evolution to clinical medicine. Unfortunately, molecular imaging techniques such as PET have not been utilised yet to their maximum capacity but I hope this will change in the near future, offering a boost in the diagnosis and therapy of cancer.
Could AI ever be used to ‘back fill’ gaps in data from incomplete image datasets?
I certainly agree that AI and potentially quantum computing technologies can help in the process of more intelligent processing of large amounts of data leading to more accurate findings and clinical decision making, nonetheless, I do not think that AI can make miracles. Similarly, I could see that they could be used to improve imaging datasets. However, I would be more cautious as AI may introduce some inherent bias derived from any prior information that has been used to teach the AI.
I recently heard a Cancer patient describe the PET experience as ‘by far the worst part of the whole journey’ – how can that be changed?
I do not know why there was an explicit comment about PET experience as it is harmless. One thing I can say is that typically the PET centres are located at the lower ground floors to reduce cost due to radiation safety regulations, so without access to physical light the people there can give occasionally the feeling of being in a dungeon.
In contrast to the norm, very recently, I visited the German Oncology Centre in Cyprus, which started operations a few months ago. Although this centre has been fully equipped and has access to the high-class tools available to the clinician to treat cancer patients, what has inspired me mostly is the location of the centre which is placed on a hill viewing the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Limassol.
This reminded me of my visit at the ancient Asclepium on Kos island, which was built at a unique view of the sea, the islands and Asia Minor.
The idea of medicine was very different in the ancient world. They had put much more effort in providing a full experience which included a nice environment for the patients in order to boost their psychology.
On the opposite side, my typical hospital experience in the ‘modern medicine’ is generally poor with patients being placed in compact rooms, and making them wait for too long to be seen relatively quickly by a doctor. The humane relationship of the patient with the doctor is key and a good environment where treatment and diagnosis take place are also vital to help the psychology of patients, especially those with critical health conditions. I am eager for the day that these will be regarded more seriously by hospitals.
Tell us about your work with STEMnet…
It has been a great experience being an ambassador of STEMnet. I have been quite active hosting young students at our institute in Leeds and I have trained them in medical imaging in cooperation with the Social Mobility Foundation (http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/). I have also the great honour to visit primary schools engaging with various young pupils. Through these commitments, I have realised the big gap between the secondary and higher education systems, thus I would encourage in future the participation of more and more academics in such activities.
At the end, it is the new generation that comes along with the hope of succeeding in improving our world.
You’re Greek (my favourite food), but you lecture on medical imaging in Leeds and New York – can you pick a favourite restaurant?
I would say that my favourite restaurant is called Epistrophy in New York. This is a nice cool place whose name is Greek and means ‘Return’. And to me this can be interpreted as the return to New York, or the eventual return to Greece, where I dream of moving to one day. If you are a Jazz lover, go there on Sunday. But I warn you, the food is not Greek, but Italian – which is also great!
To what extent do Greek language skills give you an advantage working in medicine, engineering and physics?
Indeed, knowing Greek is a great help, especially for medical related terminology. I have no idea how people are capable of remembering so many complicated terms if they do not speak Greek – as the words have a synthetic meaning but missing their etymology, it requires incredible memory skills! Luckily with IT tech this will not be such an issue anymore…
Who are you expecting to see in your session at the conference?
I hope to see people who are excited about absorbing new knowledge and are keen to ask questions and interact with me and other colleagues. Sometimes I am disappointed when I give presentations and I get no questions.
It’s your first visit to MediSens, what are you looking forward to?
I would be glad to meet the production team in person and thank Hayley Marsden (Head of Production) especially for the warm interactions throughout the organisation of the event!
Harry was chatting to Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, Sense Media’s Head of New Projects.
Dr Tsoumpas’s session, “The role of PET image reconstruction in diagnosis and treatment of cancer”, part of the exciting MediSens agenda in 2018, will be delivered in the afternoon of February 26th.