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August 16, 2012

Joint Research Project To Improve Prostate, Liver Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis

By Byron Spice

Department of HealthCarnegie Mellon recently received nearly $1 million from Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program to develop digital image analysis tools that will guide physicians in identifying and treating aggressive prostate cancer tumors and pediatric liver tumors.

Robert F. Murphy, director of CMU's Lane Center for Computational Biology, will direct the two-year project, "Automated Biomarker Identification for Cancer Detection and Prognosis," which will bring together researchers at Carnegie Mellon with investigators at UPMC and Omnyx, LLC.

"Physicians treating prostate cancer and pediatric liver cancer tell us that they now have few, if any, tools to help them differentiate between tumors that demand aggressive treatment and those that don't pose an immediate threat to patient survival," Murphy said. "We expect to show that automated image analysis technology, developed by my group at the Lane Center and Gustavo Rohde's group in biomedical engineering, can be used to detect certain subcellular changes that could help physicians identify those dangerous tumors and determine the best ways to treat them."  

The new research project has a budget of $1.43 million, including $446,000 in matching funds from Omnyx.

The team also includes Drs. Anil Parwani and John Ozolek from UPMC's Department of Pathology. If the technology proves useful, it will be marketed through Omnyx, a joint venture of UPMC and GE Healthcare that has created an integrated digital pathology system.

The CURE program is administered by the state Department of Health and funded by the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry. Michael Wolf, Department of Health executive deputy secretary, said that this was the first year that CURE has awarded this type of grant to private industry along with research institutions. Since the inception of CURE, Carnegie Mellon has received nearly $14 million in funding, part of the more than $750 million in total CURE awards.


From left, Michael Wolf, executive deputy secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health; Travis Zangrilli, public health program manager for the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program; Robert F. Murphy, director of CMU's Lane Center for Computational Biology; and Rajiv Enand, senior vice president for business development,  Omnyx, LLC.