Arie Kaufman, chair of the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, has received a grant for almost $1 million from The Marcus Foundation to explore the use of virtual reality in pancreatic cancer research.
The research is a collaborative effort between Stony Brook and Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Kaufman, principal investigator of the project, shares the award with co-PI Joel Saltz, chair of Biomedical Informatics at Stony Brook, and PI Ralph Hruban and co-PI Elliot Fishman from Johns Hopkins.
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It’s estimated that this year 46,420 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 39,590 will die from the disease. While much remains a mystery surrounding pancreatic cancer, researchers do know that it is extremely aggressive, with only 5 percent of patients alive five years after diagnosis.
A significant fraction of pancreatic cancers are thought to originate from curable cystic precancerous lesions. Approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population has a CT scan each year and a significant number of incidental pancreatic cysts are detected in these individuals. Believing that a key to survival is early diagnosis, this unique collaboration between Stony Brook and Johns Hopkins proposes a novel approach for identifying and classifying pancreatic cysts.
This research presents a unique opportunity to save lives that would otherwise be lost to pancreatic cancer. The challenge is that some pancreatic cysts are harmless and present a risk for over-treatment, while others are precancerous. Reliable, pre-operative classification of these cysts is not possible at present.
Kaufman and his team will identify well-characterized patients with previously surgically removed pancreatic cysts, and, using advanced computer science approaches, they will create a virtual pancreatography for 3D visualization and navigation through and around the pancreas, and especially the ducts, to identify and characterize the cysts and to correlate cyst features with cyst diagnoses. This non-invasive tool will help avoid unnecessary surgery in patients with benign cysts that do not have the potential to progress, and will help save lives by identifying cysts that are at risk of progressing to the incurable invasive pancreatic cancer.
The Marcus Foundation’s support of this pioneering research will give newfound hope to pancreatic cancer patients around the world.
Kaufman has been conducting computer science research for more than 40 years. To date, he has over 40 patents and has been a principal or co-principal investigator on more than 100 research grants. Kaufman is internationally recognized for his revolutionary research and breakthroughs, including the Reality Deck and the 3D Virtual Colonoscopy, which is an FDA approved and licensed technique for screening colon cancer. He is also a chief scientist at the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology and a Distinguished Professor of Radiology at Stony Brook University.