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

The grant from Susan G. Komen will further UB engineer Jun Xia's research on photoacoustic computed tomography, a noninvasive imaging technique that combines light and ultrasound technology. to better identify breast cancer in patients with dense breast tissue.

By CORY NEALON

Published October 17, 2017

“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.”
Jun Xia, assistant professor
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Soon, more women will have access to breast cancer screening that can detect breast cancer earlier, thanks to an imaging tool being developed by UB researcher Jun Xia.

Xia is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

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 associated with a higher risk of breast cancer,” Xia says. “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.”

The 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 also has 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,” says Albert Titus, 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,” says 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. More than $4 million has been spent serving the eight counties of 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,” says 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.”