The research objectives of Azra Alizad, M.D., are to develop and advance new ultrasound imaging techniques for the assessment of cancer lesions and other tissue abnormalities. These techniques can be used for diagnosis, monitoring the progression of diseases and evaluating response to treatment.
Dr. Alizad collaborates with scientists and clinicians at Mayo Clinic, as well as U.S. and industrywide, to translate her research to clinical practice. Her research program has been fully funded since 2005 and is currently supported by multiple competitive grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
- Microvasculature imaging. Dr. Alizad and her colleagues have developed novel ultrasound-based imaging for microvascular visualization. This technology is based on novel processing procedures to reveal small microvasculature using high frame rate ultrasound imaging. An advantage of this technique is that it does not require the use of contrast agents to produce high-resolution images of the microvasculature. This noninvasive ultrasound-based technology allows physicians to observe vascular changes in diseased tissues and detect abnormalities such as cancerous lesions.
- Elasticity imaging. Lesion stiffness has been recognized as an important factor in differentiating between malignant and benign masses. Dr. Alizad is interested in the characterization of biological materials and evaluation of tissue viscoelasticity employing various techniques — including very low frequency elastography, shear wave elastography and vibro-acoustography. She has been utilizing these methods for detection of breast cancer and monitoring neoadjuvant chemotherapy, as well as for differentiation of thyroid nodules.
- Nonlinear elastography. Dr. Alizad is interested in studying nonlinear elasticity parameters of tissue as a new biomarker for breast cancer. This novel approach can open the door to a noninvasive and highly sensitive tool for cancer detection.
- Quantitative assessment of infant bone by ultrasound. Dr. Alizad is working to develop a new noninvasive and quantitative ultrasound method for bone health monitoring in infants. This method can be used to identify at-risk groups and manage necessary therapy.
- Deep learning for classifying breast masses and thyroid nodules. Dr. Alizad's team is conducting research on automated segmentation and classification of breast and thyroid lesions in ultrasound images employing state-of-the-art deep learning techniques.
Significance to patient care
The goal of Dr. Alizad's research on translational ultrasound is to characterize biological materials, evaluate tissue viscoelasticity in a quantitative manner, and provide noninvasive diagnostic tools from bench to bedside to meet the clinical needs of patients and improve patient care. These generally safe, nonionizing, low-cost techniques can benefit a wide range of patients worldwide.
- Elected fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, 2014-present
- Chartered standing member, Medical Imaging Study Section, National Institute of Health, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, 2013-present
- Elected fellow, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), 2012-present
- Award Committee member American Association for Cancer Research-Minority in Cancer Research (AACR-MICR) for Minority Serving Institution Faculty Scholar Awards Committee, 2011-present