ESR12: Development of Novel Technology for Monitoring Radiofrequency Heating by Non-invasive Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

PhD research

Host: Prof. Dr. Thoralf Niendorf

Recruiting organisation: Max-Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association, Berlin Ultrahigh Field Facility (B.U.F.F.), Robert Rössle Strasse 10, 13125 Berlin,Germany

Duration: 36 months

Background

Temperature is a critical physical parameter that has wide ranging biological implications and that has long been the subject of intense clinical interest. However, to truly define the role of temperature in biological systems and disease, and to use this insight for diagnosis and therapy, we require non-invasive methods to modulate temperature in vivo and characterize its effects. Magnetic resonance (MR) is a diagnostic imaging tool that has proven indispensable in clinical practice. A critical distinction between ultrahigh field MR (UHF-MR) and conventional MR is that UHF-MR uses higher radio frequencies (RF), which permits shorter wavelengths. The short wave length regime offers the unique potential for precisely localized temperature manipulation. The aim is to understand and monitor the thermal properties of healthy and pathological tissues, and to explore the use of heat as a therapeutic tool. To meet this mission the project focuses on the identification and evaluation of MR imaging modalities for monitoring the effect of Hyperthermia (HT) on tumor size, tissue perfusion and tissue hypoxia.

Approach 

In this Ph.D. project we will identify, develop, validate, evaluate and apply MRI modalities for monitoring the effect of the combined radiation therapy (RT) and HT therapy on tumor size, tissue haemodynamics and oxygenation. The focus will be on MR methods for probing perfusion and hypoxia, BOLD imaging, perfusion imaging using exogenous and endogenous contrast mechanisms, diffusion weighted imaging and sodium MRI. Reliable temperature information is crucial for thermal dose and therapy response characterization. Here, our experience obtained from MR thermometry is highly relevant and underscores the need for speed. Therefore this task focuses on advancing MR thermometry (MRTh) including the development of temperature-sensitized MR techniques that provide accelerated and accurate MRTh immune to image distortion. These developments are a prerequisite for thermal dose calibration and dose management. To guide imaging electro-magnetic field simulations will be used to control and steer hyperthermia and to manage the temperature dosage, for this purpose realistic human voxel models including clinical data about the size, geometry and tumor entity will be included in the simulations, the simulations will be validated in experiments to provide a reference for the in vivo studies involving the tumor models. Results will be analysed to establish correlations between treatment outcome and tumor perfusion and hypoxia before and after RT+HT.

Our research team

The Berlin Ultrahigh Field Facility (B.U.F.F) at the MDC is a pioneering imaging facility focusing on the development of new Magnetic Resonance (MR) technology to map anatomy, morphology, microstructure, physiology, metabolism and function to characterize bio-physical and (patho)physiological processes. State-of-the-art MR instruments dedicated to research are available at B.U.F.F. including a family of Siemens 7.0 Tesla, a 3.0 Tesla whole body MR systems and a Bruker 9.4 T small bore animal scanner. The research team at B.U.F.F. is an assembly of biomedical engineers, imaging scientists, physicists and related disciplines. What makes research at B.U.F.F. unique is the collaborative culture and the passion for always asking questions about the molecular and (patho)physiological meaning of the imaging findings. Thinking like a molecule is in our upbringing; translating what we see at the microscopic and mesoscopic level into molecular, biological and clinical terms is in our minds and our hearts. That is why our research is not bound to one organ or disease: we promote strong ties across diseases, modalities and systems, connecting nanoscopic views, length scales, time scales and mesoscopic pictures with mechanistic insights and macroscopic function. Prof. dr Thoralf Niendorf is head of B.U.F.F. and Chair for Experimental Ultrahigh Field MR - Charité University Medicine, Berlin, with 25 years of biomedical imaging/engineering experience in academia and industry and long experience in supervising doctoral/postdoctoral fellows. He has a strong and expertise in hyperthermia, RF technology, EMF simulations and temperature mapping and Thermal Magnetic Resonance. He is speaker of the Helmholtz International Research School on Imaging and Data Science from the Nano to the Meso (iNAMES), a joint collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Niendorf is entitled to promote PhD students through Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany.

Your experience

  • Candidates should have a Master’s degree in physics, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, medical science or a related discipline.
  • Strong analytical skills and a quality orientated mindset.
  • Experience in image reconstruction/post-processing and data analysis.
  • Have a strong motivation for research and good communication skills.
  • Excellent higher education track record.
  • Fluent spoken and written English skills.

In addition, the following experience would be helpful, but not essential:

  • Previous research or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) experience.
  • Experience in Pulse Sequence Programming and Numerical Simulations.

We seek a highly motivated scientist who enjoys an interdisciplinary environment and an interdisciplinary project, able to work independently but also as part of a team.

Our offer

This 3-year PhD position is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions of the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 955625.  You will be appointed as fulltime PhD for 3 years with the Max-Delbrueck Center for Moelcular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association, Berlin, Germany. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) programme offers a highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions. The successful candidates will receive a salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for early stage researchers. Exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment [Living Allowance = €39.240/year (correction factor to be applied per country) + Monthly mobility allowance = €600. An additional monthly allowance of €500 is applicable depending on family situation. In addition to their individual scientific projects, all fellows will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses and active participation in workshops and conferences. 

Your application

See recruitment procedure. You can apply using the online application form. For more information about the position, you can contact Prof. Dr. Thoralf Niendorf (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; phone: +49 30 9406 4505). 

Max-Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine

The Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) is one of the world’s leading research institutes in life sciences and member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. MDC has been ranked 14th on the Thomson Reuters list of the world’s best research institutes for molecular biology and genetics. Work of MDC’s ~65 research groups focuses on 3 main topics: 1. Genes, Cells and Cell-based Medicine, 2. Molecular Processes and Therapies, 3. Integrative Biomedicine with biomedical imaging being a cross-cutting area across all three topics. MDC conducts basic biomedical research to understand causes of diseases on the molecular level with a mission to translate discoveries into practical applications, aiming at disease prevention, diagnosis and therapy. MDC is connected with many Berlin/international universities, research institutes, clinics and biotech industry. MDC and Charité, one of Europe’s largest university hospitals, joined forces in a novel Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) to combine translational research and a systems medicine approach bridging the gap between research and clinical users.