Dr Tuong Linh (Kevin) Nguyen

Mining mammograms for better breast cancer screening

Dr Tuong Linh (Kevin) Nguyen is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at The University of Melbourne. His current area of research focus is breast cancer.

The Research

The process of using mammography to screen for breast cancer represents exciting untapped potential because there is information in mammograms, previously untapped, that can help scientists predict a woman’s risk of developing the disease.

By analysing mammograms, Kevin aims to identify women who are at the highest risk of developing breast cancer, and improve screening and the training of radiologists. In his PhD work at The University of Melbourne, Kevin found that women with bright areas on their mammograms were at higher risk of breast cancer. He is now studying how this knowledge and other measures can be translated into clinical practice around the world. ‘My findings could change breast screening to make it more effective,’ he says. ‘They also have implications for biological, molecular, genetic and epidemiological research and clinical translation.’

The most significant finding of his research so far is that by defining mammographic density at higher than conventional pixel brightness, researchers can predict risks more accurately. The discovery is based on both digital and film mammograms and applies to both Caucasian Australian and Asian Korean women. Kevin and colleagues discovered, too, that for digital mammograms the strength of the findings depends on how the mammograms are processed. This also holds promise for improving risk prediction.

He is particularly inspired to seek solutions for what he and colleagues believe is an impending epidemic of breast cancer in Asian women.

The Importance of Funding

Kevin hopes the Cure Cancer funding will be critical in ultimately helping to reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer. ‘It will place me in a much more advantageous position to attract further early-career research funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and other agencies, and it’ll give me enormous confidence to move forward. I want to use this opportunity to save as many lives as I can.’