How NVIDIA GPUs Are Helping Transform Cancer Research

NVIDIA RTX is powering a new method of 3D imaging developed by researchers at Penn State to bring advances to medical research.
by Nicole Castro

NVIDIA RTX is powering a new method for 3D imaging developed by researchers at Penn State to bring advances to medical research.

To detect changes in cells, technicians often take a sample of tissue and examine it under a microscope. But this method limits researchers from visualizing a complete sample of the tissue.

“If breast cancer is suspected, doctors will perform a biopsy. But they need to cut the tissue into thin sections to place it under a microscope, so the biopsy only shows a small part of the tissue,” said Dr. Keith C. Cheng, professor of pathology and director of Penn State’s Computational Phenomics Initiative. “It doesn’t show any volumetric data, and you only get a statistical sampling of the cells.”

That’s why Dr. Cheng is turning to X-ray microtomography, or micro-CT, which allows a single scan of a tissue sample to provide a complete 3D view at high resolutions. For this computationally intensive workload, the team at Penn State use NVIDIA RTX GPUs to digitally reconstruct 3D models and view them in VR.

RTX Ray Tracing Helps Researchers Dig Deep into Details

Micro-CT is X-ray imaging that enables researchers to recreate 3D structures from samples without dissecting or destroying them. NVIDIA RTX GPUs help complete the imaging reconstruction quickly — in about one minute per sample — allowing users to rapidly access a virtual, 3D model of an entire biopsy.

Dr. Cheng and his colleagues perform the imaging in a lab, where they’ve build a custom machine. The Turing-based RTX GPU leverages RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and deliver high-quality images that show volumes of data.

After scanning the samples, the team uses VR software tool syGlass on their desktop to view the images. The GPU computes the visualization as they move the controls, enabling them to explore, manipulate and examine the 3D models in VR.

According to Dr. Cheng, the level of detail produced from this new 3D imaging method will advance medical areas such as cancer diagnostics because it allows researchers to count and detect the number of cancer cells in tissue.

To showcase this new RTX-powered technique, Dr. Cheng created a digital model of a zebrafish that can be virtually sectioned and visualized in any plane.

“NVIDIA RTX GPUs help create 3D images faster than we thought possible, so now we can access more comprehensive data and look at complete samples in higher resolutions than ever before,” said Dr. Cheng.

Using the latest RTX technology, professionals can create high-resolution images of samples, enabling them to analyze every cell and gain insight into the data that can further advance medical research.

Watch the video below to learn more: