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Vish Subramaniam, PhD

Award Name CCTS Pilot 2009
Award Date 04/01/2009

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New Method for Detection of Cancer

The problem of cancer recurrence is one Vish Subramaniam, PhD, and his team, hope to tackle.

The purpose of Dr. Subramaniam’s study is to develop a new, non-invasive method for detecting cancer. Currently, patients are subjected to pre-operative imaging such as Computer Tomography (CT) scans, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). While these methods can help in early detection, they have limited use in the operating room because they have poor sensitivity and specificity for cancer detection, and can interfere with surgical procedures.

The study is looking at the electromagnetic properties of healthy and cancerous tissues. Dr. Subramaniam hopes to find a way for intraoperative detection and accurate assessment of surgical margins that is non-invasive, and will not expose patients to radiation.

By developing an effective hand-held probe for surgeons to use in the operating room, Dr. Subramaniam believes cancerous cells can be completely removed from the body and greatly increase the survival rate. This new technique would also complement the existing technologies that are used.

“We have preliminary indications that look very, very good. Everything that we believed to be true is coming true. Now it’s a matter of proving it against existing techniques — validating it,” Dr. Subramaniam said.

The team has already found that measurements in the magnetic susceptibilities of cancerous and healthy tissue in anesthetized mice have shown considerable differences. They are correlating these disparities in the electromagnetic properties with the change in morphology and vasculature in the tissue. The measurements will then be used to detect diseased lymph nodes and hopefully pave the way for the development of non-invasive probes.

“It will lead to saving lives,” Dr. Subramaniam said. “You save lives by putting the right tools in the hands of the surgeons.”

A challenge he says the team is facing is reinterpreting the electromagnetic measurements. This can result in false positives and false negatives — erroneously reporting the presence or absence of cancer cells. Dr. Subramaniam says false positives can be avoided by increasing the sensitivity of the mechanisms, or by using antibodies with targets that have significantly different electromagnetic properties which can be picked up by probes.

In the end, the team believes the study will not only change cancer treatment, but have far-reaching benefits as well.

“I think it’s really going to change the way we view technology in general and how we verify what we do,” said Doug Murrey, one of the co-principal investigators of the study. “Yes, our [study] is directed at cancer but it reaches all of medicine.”

By Jeffy Mai, Thursday, June 17, 2009

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