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UVU Physics Researcher To Present Breast Cancer Breakthroughs

7 November 2012 One Comment

November 6, 2012
For Immediate Release

University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Cheryl Kamenski (801) 863-6351

Utah Valley University’s Department of Physics and the University of Utah’s School of Medicine will present “Partners in Breast Cancer Breakthroughs,” outlining the latest research and findings in using high-frequency ultrasound to detect cancer cells during surgical procedures, such as lumpectomies. This will enable doctors to remove all of the cancerous tissue at that time without having to send the tissue for post-surgical laboratory analysis, thus preventing further surgeries.

Tim Doyle, UVU physics assistant professor, first thought of using ultrasound to detect cancer in tissue after working as a rocket scientist and using a similar technology to test the “health” of rocket motors. Doyle said when he left that field he wanted to apply his knowledge to something more humanitarian than rocket motors, such as medical applications.

“Dr. Tim Doyle’s medical-physics cross disciplinary work and innovation is something we work hard to develop and foster at UVU,” said Sam Rushforth, dean of UVU’s College of Science & Health. “His research has the near certainty to lower the number of surgical interventions women may need to cure breast cancer. We are very fortunate to have him at our university.”

Doyle was referred to Dr. Leigh Neumayer, who is a breast cancer surgeon at the University of Utah. Due to her mechanical engineering background, she saw the potential of how high-frequency ultrasound could be able to detect cancer at the microscopic level. She suggested that Doyle use his idea to find cancer in margins, which are the tissue regions around a tumor that are removed with the tumor.

Doyle and Dr. Neumayer will present how their findings and technology can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of breast cancer surgery. The event takes place in the Science Building auditorium, room 134, on the UVU campus on Tuesday, Nov. 13, starting at 7 p.m. with dessert and an opportunity to meet the speakers. The presentation follows at 7:30 p.m.

Doyle and Dr. Neumayer’s lecture is the first in a new, ongoing lecture series presented by the College of Science & Health called Science Desserts. Each semester, the college will host a presentation by its faculty, along with dessert, to encourage UVU students and the community to learn more about science and the college’s real-world impact in a variety of scientific fields.

“I will present an overview of our ultrasonic method, its potential benefits to breast cancer patients and the results to date from our studies and future studies,” said Doyle. “We are still at the study stage of our research, and we need to collect more data before we apply for FDA approval of the device for routine use on patients.”

Physicians will use the handheld device, which UVU physics is developing, during surgery while removing cancerous tumors. The device will ensure doctors are removing all of the cancerous tissue. Currently, 30-50 percent of women who undergo a lumpectomy have to go back for a second surgery because the margin, or the tissue around where the tumor was removed, shows positive for cancer.

UVU students from different science backgrounds, including physics, biology and chemistry, are assisting Doyle in the research, which has been ongoing for more than a year. He gives students regular research roles and trusts their data collection and analysis.

“This gives UVU biology and physics students wonderful learning opportunities and a greater understanding of medical research outside the classroom,” Rushforth said. “These students are now better prepared for medical school or their chosen careers.”

In July, Doyle and his team of students started testing at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to analyze breast tumors. They are looking at different types of microscopic structures at the cell level. In addition to indicating the presence of cancer, these structures may also help identify different genetic markers that predict how the tumor will respond to treatment.

Doyle hopes to conduct another study with patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute soon. This will be followed by clinical trials to prove the value of the technique in breast cancer surgery. Doyle anticipates it will take up to 10 years for this methodology to become mainstream.

Timothy Doyle


About UVU

Utah Valley University is located in Orem, Utah, and is home to more than 30,000 students. UVU began as a vocational school during World War II, and in the seven decades since has evolved into a technical school, community college, state college and, finally, a comprehensive regional teaching university. UVU is one of Utah’s largest institutions of higher learning and offers programs ranging from career training to high-demand master degrees, with emphasis on undergraduate education.

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One Comment »

  • Patrice Abbott said:

    Breast cancer took my mother and my aunt. Other cancers took their mother and all of her brothers and sisters. I am thrilled that this new technique for detecting rogue cancer cells during surgery has been developed. I just wish it had been developed earlier.

    As my siblings and I face an uncertain future under the shadow of cancer, programs like this offer to light our way out. As Shakespeare said, “Thanks, thanks, and ever thanks.”

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