Michael K. O'Connor, Ph.D., studies the application of functional imaging tools in the detection and characterization of breast cancer. The long-term goal of Dr. O'Connor's research team is to develop an inexpensive screening tool for breast cancer that will be an adjunct to screening mammography.
Dr. O'Connor's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, among other organizations.
- Molecular breast imaging. Over the last 10 years, Dr. O'Connor's research group, in collaboration with breast radiologists, breast surgeons and physicians in the Mayo Clinic Breast Clinic, has been working on the development of a new breast imaging method called molecular breast imaging.
Molecular breast imaging uses small cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) detectors and allows imaging of the function of the breast rather than the anatomy.
Recent work has allowed Dr. O'Connor's research group to significantly reduce the radiation dose associated with molecular breast imaging, making it comparable to that from mammography. Future work will evaluate it in long-term studies as a screening tool and in a variety of diagnostic applications.
Work is also ongoing to combine this technology with ultrasound to provide simultaneous functional and anatomical information on breast lesions.
Significance to patient care
Recent large patient trials from Mayo Clinic indicate that molecular breast imaging may be a viable alternative to screening mammography in women with dense breast tissue, where mammography is known to have a reduced sensitivity for the detection of breast cancer.
- Associate Editor, Medical Physics, 2012
- Fellow, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, 2010