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Susan G. Komen awards UB engineer $450,000 for cancer imaging research


Wed, Oct 11th 2017 05:55 pm
The grant, for photoacoustic computed tomography, will help improve screening for women with dense breast tissue
Soon, more women will have access to breast cancer screening that can detect breast cancer earlier, thanks to an imaging tool being developed by University at Buffalo researcher Jun Xia.
Xia, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in UB's department of biomedical engineering, a joint program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.
He was awarded a $450,000 grant from Susan G. Komen to further his research on photoacoustic computed tomography, a noninvasive imaging technique that combines light and ultrasound technology. It has the potential to better identify breast cancer and address an unmet clinical need in patients with dense breast tissue.
"More than 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue. The dense tissue reduces the ability of mammograms to identify cancer from 87 percent to as low as 30 percent. It's also is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer," Xia said. "We are advancing the photoacoustic technology to solve these problems, thereby identifying cancer earlier and improving the quality of life for people diagnosed with this disease."
This award, which coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, was announced at Komen's annual Survivors Luncheon on Oct. 7 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
This research has also received support from the two largest breast screening centers in the Buffalo area: Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Windsong Radiology. Xia plans to image 200 patients in these two clinics over three years and develop a photoacoustic cancer scoring system.
"This research is a perfect example how biomedical research can be translated from the lab to the clinic to improve health care for people in Western New York and beyond," said Albert Titus, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of biomedical engineering.
The grant is part of $30.7 million for nearly 100 research grants Komen is distributing across the country in the coming year, with a focus on new treatments and understanding of the most lethal forms and stages of breast cancer. Komen funding to institutions in 27 states and seven countries also includes research into new screening technologies, treatments for metastatic and aggressive types of breast cancer, and disparities in breast cancer outcomes.
"We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors who fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths in the region, both through life-saving local programs and through research," said Liz Kahn, executive director of Susan G. Komen Upstate New York.
Since 1997, Susan G. Komen Upstate New York has contributed $5.2 million to Komen National Research grants. Komen also has funded $14.7 million for community programs serving upstate New York's women and men. More than $4 million has been spent serving eight counties in Western New York.
"We are focused on new treatments, ways to overcome drug resistance in breast cancer patients, and a better understanding of how and why breast cancer spreads, so that we can better treat metastatic breast cancer or prevent it all together," said Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. "This focus on aggressive and metastatic disease is the foundation of our 'Bold Goal' to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026."

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