IC Support for Breast Cancer Detection Research
April 3, 1995
Technologies developed by the Intelligence Community to safeguard our national security may one day help save nearly a third of the 46,000 women who might otherwise die of breast cancer each year.
I am pleased to announce that the Intelligence Community will continue to fund research into dual-use technologies which promise to save lives by dramatically improving early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. The Central Intelligence Agency, the Community Management Staff, and the National Reconnaissance Office will contribute a total of $375,000 to further this work.
Dr. Susan J. Blumenthal, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, was the catalyst for an effort that promises to bear fruit for both the medical and Intelligence Communities. She was the one who first suggested that the Intelligence Community investigate how algorithms developed for missile detection and the monitoring of foreign military developments might assist in the fight against cancer. I would like to thank Dr. Blumenthal for her leadership in this effort.
The development of digital mammography makes it possible to use the Intelligence Community's image processing technologies to more effectively read mammograms. The demonstrations you will see this afternoon at the National Photographic Interpretation Center illustrate the power of some of these techniques.
Let me give you one example of how cooperation between the intelligence and medical communities can pay dividends. The Intelligence Community has developed techniques that allow computers to detect changes--such as new roads and missile sites--in aerial imagery over time. The same technology can also apply to mammography. Computers can align mammograms and magnetic resonance(MR) scans taken at different times and subtract matching features, leaving only the changes between the two images. This highlights new features, drawing attention to any suspicious region and dramatically increasing a physician's ability to detect cancer at its early stage. This is especially critical for women under age 50, where higher breast density makes detection of cancer more difficult.
Breast cancer research is only one area in which our resources can make a difference. We are breaking down barriers that have kept the talents, expertise, and technical resources of the Intelligence Community and our industry contractors from being applied to problems that lie beyond the scope of our traditional national security mission. This creative, cooperative work will open the achievements of the Intelligence Community to the community at large. Our work will also benefit from the exchange of ideas. We are delighted to make a contribution. Thank you.