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Duquesne Research, Supported with $1.4 Million NIH Grant, Could Lead to Earlier Cancer Detection

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Duquesne Research, Supported with $1.4 Million NIH Grant, Could Lead

to Earlier Cancer Detection

PITTSBURGH, April 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Duquesne

University'snewly established biomedical engineering initiative has

made an immediate impact, receiving a $1.4 million, five-year grant

from the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute to

detect, capture and analyze circulating melanoma cells.

BME program Director Dr. John Viator, a specialist in medical lasers,

will use this technology to analyze patients' blood samples in hopes

of detecting the spread of this potentially fatal skin cancer months

or even years before it could be identified by conventional imaging.

The focus on melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, arose

while Viator was working on separate research to use lasers in a

non-invasive way to determine the severity of a burn injury. A

surgical oncologist asked if the method could be used to find melanoma

cells circulating in the bloodstream, as it attempts to spread

throughout the body.

The duo then developed a method of zapping a blood sample as it

circulated through a system. If even a single cell contains melanoma,

a high frequency sound wave identifies it as cancerous-leading to

possible early, personalized intervention.

"Once you capture these individual cancer cells, you can do molecular

tests, genetic tests, image them under a microscope and learn more

about that particular cancer and how it's spreading," explained

Viator. "Instead of blindly prescribing chemotherapies, if you capture

the individual cells that are spreading, you can verify the type of

melanoma that responds well to a certain drug."

Melanoma is a growing health concern across the country, with nearly

10,000 Americans predicted to die from the disease this year and more

than 76,000 new cases expected to be reported, according to the

National Cancer Institute. People younger than 35 who tan indoors

increase their risk of skin cancer by nearly 60 percent, reports the

national Centers for Disease Control; about one-third of the white

girls in high school do indoor tanning.

Duquesne's grant not only supports refining the method and studying

the basic science of melanoma and cancer biology, but will provide for

a study of cancer patients to predict and observe the disease state

and the response to therapy.

Viator will collaborate with his former colleagues from the University

of Missouri and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in the

work, which also will involve the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. "It was

very fortunate for me to come to Duquesne and have one of the leading

melanoma groups here in the same city," he said. "This focus will

bring a whole new aspect to their research.

"The NIH grant was reviewed by peer scientists and awarded based on

the outstanding resources at Duquesne and Pittsburgh," said Viator.

"This award shows that Duquesne University and the biomedical

engineering program is already having great impact in improving human


Duquesne University Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked

among the nation's top Catholic research universities for its

award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne,

a campus of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has

been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community

service and commitment to sustainability.

SOURCE Duquesne University

-0- 04/16/2014

/CONTACT: Rose Ravasio, 412.396.6051, cell 412.818.0234; or Karen Ferrick-Roman, 412.396.1154, cell 412.736.1877

/Web Site:

CO: Duquesne University




-- DC06797 --

0000 04/16/2014 15:48:00 EDT

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