Transforming learning for Medical Students in Radiation Oncology

ZEIT-GEIST is an innovative new project from the University of Cambridge Computational Radiotherapy Group based at the Cavendish Laboratory, and the Department of Oncology. Our group works on using techniques from engineering, physics and mathematics to solve real-world problems in cancer therapy. We have developed a range of advanced imaging tools for visualisation of complex radiotherapy data, which have been designed to aid clinicians, physicists and radiographers with decision making processes in radiation therapy. ZEIT-GEIST represents an integration of these software tools with newly developed hardware from the video gaming industry, to develop a novel interactive environment for medical students.

Changes to the MVST curriculum sadly limit the amount of time that students spend in oncology, and it is hard for students to obtain a good understanding of the nature of precision radiotherapy treatment in such a short period of time. ZEITGEIST will provide an immersive simulation environment of radiotherapy treatment for students to use in 1:1 and small group teaching scenarios.

Radiotherapy planning software (left) does not provide the best user interface for teaching of anatomy and radiotherapy principles. Our Project IRIS (right) provides a dual mode raycasting visualisation tool that can produce exquisite imaging of radiotherapy treatment over patient anatomy.

Using innovative data processing workflows, it will be possible for a student to meet a patient in clinic or in the department, and then engage with a virtual representation of their treatment environment using the ZEIT-GEIST system. The system can be used to develop understanding of anatomy and multimodality cross sectional imaging, the principles of radiotherapy planning, and visualisation of the treatment pathway, including intensity modulated radiotherapy and image guidance. Such concepts are much easier to comprehend in such immersive environments, where the user can interact with the anatomy and treatment delivery platforms in ways that would not be possible in the clinical environment.

Just a few years ago, the creation of such an immersive environment would have cost over £20,000 in hardware alone. ZEIT-GEIST can be created at a cost of less than £500 per seat, due to two key hardware innovations from the video gaming industry. We are also targetting mobile devices to reach a wider audience.

The Leap Motion Controller (left) is a small footprint 3D motion tracking unit allowing the user to interact with virtual 3D environments using 10 digit tracking. The Oculus Rift device (right), a stereoscopic headset with motion tracking capability. The current iteration of the hardware offers low latency 3D visualisation at HD resolution.

More information

For more information and downloads of the software see the Sagittal Soft web site: http://zeitgeist.sagittalsoft.co.uk/

Project personnel: Raj Jena , Mohammad Al Sa'd & Mark Hayes

Project funded by

HEFCE and the University of Cambridge Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund.