State Gives CMU $1 Million to Study New Cancer Diagnostics

Aug 13, 2012

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has given a $983,783 grant to Carnegie Mellon University to fund two studies of a new digital scanner that could improve cancer diagnostics.

The two-year project will compare the scanner's capabilities with the current methods of diagnosing a tumor's status by placing a biopsy under a microscope. CMU principal investigator Dr. Robert Murphy said each study will focus on the diagnosis of a specific cancer.

"The first of those [is] in pediatric liver lesions. In children that have a liver lesion, we have to try to determine whether or not this is a severity that has to have aggressive treatment," said Murphy, Director of CMU's Lane Center for Computational Biology. "The same thing happens with adult prostate lesions. So, the question is, 'Should this be treated surgically, immediately, or aggressively?'"

The new scanner, built by Pittsburgh-based Omnyx, Inc. creates digital images of tumor cells meant to be brought up on computer screens. Omnyx Senior Vice President Rajiv Enand said the goal is to use those images in conjunction with online databases to help doctors make better decisions on how the tumor in question should be treated.

"If computers can analyze those images for you, pre-process them and tell you where the areas of interest that you need to look at, help quantify [gram] staining intensities or those types of things, and bring all that expertise of the global community down to your desktop -- that's where the real value in our $100 million investment comes from," said Enand referring to the cost of developing the scanner. He said the new technology would be a big improvement over the current method of "eyeballing" a glass slide of tumor cells under a microscope.

The nearly $1 million state grant was issued by the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program.