PEEK - Development of a phantom for "end-to-end" verification of a small animal irradiation system

The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Department of Radiotherapy and Radiation Oncology at the University Medical Center Eppendorf (UKE).


Preclinical radiation research relies on animal experiments, primarily using small animals such as mice or rats, so that new treatment concepts can be investigated and verified before they are implemented in the clinic. Precise radiation is planned using individual computed tomography (CT) images to calculate the distribution of radiation dose in the tumor and healthy tissue. An additional imaging modality in preclinical research, bioluminescence (BL) imaging offers several advantages, especially for detecting tumor dimensions, investigating tumor response to irradiation, or detecting the presence of metastases, as this information can only be obtained to a limited extent by CT. Therefore, a radiation device with integrated BL imaging allows a biological adjustment of the treatment concept immediately before irradiation without moving the animal further or burdening it with additional examinations.


Artificial models, so-called phantoms, offer a good opportunity to reduce or replace animal experiments by using them for the calibration and qualification of the increasingly complex processes as well as for the technical optimization of treatment techniques. While numerous phantoms have been developed in recent years for CT-guided computation and radiation dose measurement, there is still a need for anatomically correct models that allow verification of the entire process, from combined CT-BL imaging to irradiation. Therefore, the goal of the PEEK project is to develop a small animal phantom for "end-to-end" verification of small animal irradiation with integrated CT and BL imaging.

Research Procedure

The phantom being developed should initially offer the possibility of performing an examination and calibration on the preclinical platform SmART+ from the company Precision X-Ray in such a way that the BL images can be fused with the CT images for precise localization and expansion of the tumor and/or metastases. For this purpose, different materials will be investigated, which mimic biological tissue in terms of both absorption of X-rays and dispersion of BL signals. By means of additive manufacturing and integration of suitable tissue surrogates, existing phantom prototypes will be optimized. For this purpose, cells or ex-vivo tissue samples will be investigated and integrated. Monte Carlo simulations will additionally investigate the accuracy of the determination of tumor localization and extension as well as the computational algorithms provided for this purpose.

Project Organisation

Principal Investigator: Marie Wegner, M.Sc.

Funding and Partners

The project is funded by the Forschungszentrum Medizintechnik Hamburg (fmthh) under grant number 03fmthh2021.
The duration of the project is from January 2022 to December 2023.

Cooperation partner in the project is the Laboratory for Radiation Biology and Experimental Radiation Oncology (Labor für Strahlenbiologie und Experimentelle Radioonkologie) at the University Medical Center Eppendorf (UKE).