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Medical Imaging Research Gets $3M From DoD

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HOUSTON, Jan. 8, 2007 -- Rice University has received a $3 million award from the US Department of Defense for a five-year program to develop miniaturized molecular imaging technologies -- including microendoscope and needle-compatible fiber-optic systems -- for use in screening, diagnosing and monitoring breast cancer.

Rice will conduct the program in collaboration with the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The program's principal investigator is Rebekah Drezek, Rice associate professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering.

Drezek.jpg"Medical imaging plays a critical role in all aspects of breast cancer care," Drezek said. "From initial screening and diagnosis to guiding and monitoring therapeutic interventions, doctors use a variety of imaging technologies like x-rays, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. But all of these technologies provide low-resolution, non-specific anatomic images of tissue."

Research in Drezek's lab takes a different approach to clinical breast cancer imaging, focusing on the development of inexpensive, portable photonics-based imaging tools that provide high-resolution in situ imaging of the molecular hallmarks of breast cancer.

"In current practice, doctors need to biopsy a tumor in order to conduct the chemical tests that find the molecular signatures of different types of cancer," Drezek said. "There is a tremendous need for novel technologies that can detect biomarkers without tissue removal."

Drezek said most optical imaging research to date has focused on screening, but the dramatic expansion of new, targeted cancer therapies has created a substantial need for imaging tools that can monitor the efficacy of molecular-targeted therapeutics. Her research group uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop imaging tools that ultimately can be used to monitor therapies including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

"By combining our lab's expertise with that of our clinical partners at M. D. Anderson, we hope to take advantage of parallel advances in micro-optics, nanoscale imaging agents, and breast cancer biomarker identification to enable a completely different approach to molecular imaging of breast cancer than was possible just a few years ago," Drezek said. Kuan Yu, assistant professor of radiation oncology, will lead the portion of the research conducted at M. D. Anderson.

Drezek is one of three US scientists chosen by the DoD to receive the Era of Hope Scholar Award, given annually by the DoD's Congressionally Directed Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP). The award recognizes "exceptionally talented, early-career scientists who have demonstrated through their extraordinary creativity, vision and productivity that they are the best and brightest in their fields."

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Jan 2007
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
Basic ScienceBCRPBiophotonicsbreast cancerdefenseDoDEmploymentfiber-opticimagingmicroendoscopemolecular imagingMRINews & FeaturesphotonicsRebekah DrezekRice Universityx-ray

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