UVU Professor Invited To Austrian Research Institute To Develop Better Detection Method For Tissue Regeneration
February 19, 2014
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Melinda Colton
Written by: Heather Wrigley
A research institute in Austria has invited a team of scientists from Utah Valley University to apply their new method for detecting breast cancer during surgery to the study of tissue regeneration at the institute’s facilities.
Assistant professor of physics Timothy Doyle and three UVU biology students will visit the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna in March to expand the applications of their research, which centers on using high-frequency ultrasound to immediately identify if all the cancer has been removed during a surgery.
“One of the key challenges in treating breast cancer, for instance, is removing all of the cancer,” Doyle said. “Our research seeks to offer more precise treatment, to eliminate the need for a patient to return for additional surgeries.”
Currently, when an individual gets breast cancer, about half elect to undergo a lumpectomy, meaning a surgeon removes the cancerous tissue, along with a region of tissue surrounding the tumor. That region is called the margin. The margin is then analyzed, and if cancer is detected on the edges, the patient must undergo a second surgery to remove more tissue. Between 30 and 50 percent of patients return for this second surgery.
Doyle’s cancer detection technology could reduce or eliminate this problem by providing a real-time method for surgeons to scan an area to determine if any cancer cells remain. If so, surgeons could then immediately remove more tissue, instead of having to wait for a lab to analyze the tissue and then having the patient return later if cancer is found. The method would work with any type of soft tissue cancer.
The research Doyle and nearly two dozen students are working on identifies how cancer “sounds.”
“When ultrasound comes in contact with different elements in body tissue, those things resonate. They ring like a bell,” Doyle explained. “Each tissue component has a different ring because it resonates at a specific sound frequency. The trick is to identify what those sounds indicate.”
Preliminary studies done in partnership with the Huntsman Cancer Institute have been promising. While in Vienna, Doyle and his students will partner with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute to research methods to measure the regrowth of blood vessels (vascularization).
Researchers will try to determine how vascularization affects the ultrasound signal. If ultrasound can identify an increase or decrease in vascularization, doctors will have a more efficient way to determine tissue regeneration within the body. It will also provide a new approach to detect and diagnose the growth of cancerous tumors.
“Tumors grow quickly, so they need lots of blood, meaning they grow lots of blood vessels,” Doyle explained. “To treat tumors, in many cases, patients are given a drug to prevent the growth of new blood vessels. We used our ultrasound technology to compare normal tumors to tumors treated with this drug and noticed a big difference. When Vienna saw the results, they asked us to come.”
UVU has supported this venture with funding and guidance as Doyle has applied for patents to protect his research and technology.
“UVU has been very active in backing Dr. Doyle’s work,” said Kent Millington, director of the UVU Technology Commercialization Center. “We’ve helped with the patenting process, with getting grants to further the research they’re doing. We’ve filed six provisional patents so far, and right now we’re working with patent attorneys to line up the patenting process. UVU has invested about $100,000 in this project, with another $140,000 coming from grants and private foundations.”