Duke to Lead National Center for Virtual Imaging Trials

Friday, June 18, 2021
Ehsan Samei, PhD

Ehsan Samei, PhD

A new center in Duke’s School of Medicine provides scientists and physicians with the tools to use digital models of patients to assess the effects of imaging technologies and applications. Launched this spring, the Center for Virtual Imaging Trials (CVIT) is supported by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is directed by Ehsan Samei, PhD, professor in the departments of Radiology, Physics, Biomedical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

CVIT is hosted in the Ravin Advanced Imaging Laboratories in the Department of Radiology and uses bio-physical and machine learning processes to create precise virtual models of patients. Using these models, scientists and physicians can test how a range of imaging and therapies would impact the patient based on their specific anatomy and disease progression. This has application in both clinical research – how to best use a new technology in the context of a clinical trial, albiet virtually – but also clinical care – how best image a particular patient toward a specific outcome. For example, physicians could model how a tumor in a patient with lung cancer can best be imaged and targeted by radiation to help determine the optimum care. 

“A computational virtual patient model reflecting the respiratory and cardiac motions.”A computational virtual patient model reflecting the respiratory and cardiac motions.

“Virtual clinical trials provide a new paradigm to assess the anticipated impact of medical innovations on patient care,” said Samei. “They offer a new way to conduct experiments in medicine in a way that is ethically, financially, and logistically feasible while reflecting the complexities and variabilities of human body and medical technologies. They open a new window in medical science and practice.”

The center will be useful to Duke scientists and physicians but also available for use by others around the world. Samei and colleagues will provide online training and a monthly informational forum series for scientists who are interested in using the center.

Mary E. Klotman, MD, Dean of the School of Medicine

“Ehsan and his team are uniquely positioned and extremely well qualified to deliver on the importance of developing platforms for virtual imaging trials,” said Erik Paulson, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology. “Duke Radiology is delighted with their successes to date.”

“This center provides new tools that will enable our faculty to make informed decisions using AI methodologies and practical and timely alternatives to clinical trials. Congratulations to Dr. Samei and his colleagues for this achievement and for their leadership in advancing the science and practice of medicine,” said Mary E. Klotman, MD, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.