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Susan G. Komen awards UB engineer $450,000 for cancer imaging research

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Soon, more women will have access to
breast cancer screening that can detect breast cancer earlier,
thanks to an imaging tool being developed by University at Buffalo
researcher Jun Xia.

Xia, PhD, is an assistant professor in UB’s Department of
Biomedical Engineering, a joint program of the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine
and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

He was awarded a $450,000 grant from Susan G. Komen to further
his research on photoacoustic computed tomography, a noninvasive
imaging technique that combines light and ultrasound technology. It
has the potential to better identify breast cancer and address an
unmet clinical need in patients with dense breast tissue.

“More than 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue.
The dense tissue reduces the ability of mammograms to identify
cancer from 87 percent to as low as 30 percent. It’s also is
associated with a higher risk of breast cancer,” Xia said.
“We are advancing the photoacoustic technology to solve these
problems, thereby identifying cancer earlier and improving the
quality of life for people diagnosed with this disease.”

This award, which coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
was announced at Komen’s Annual Survivors Luncheon on Oct. 7
at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

This research has also received support from the two largest
breast screening centers in the Buffalo area: Roswell Park Cancer
Institute and Windsong Radiology. Xia plans to image 200 patients
in these two clinics over three years and develop a photoacoustic
cancer scoring system.

“This research is a perfect example how biomedical
research can be translated from the lab to the clinic to improve
health care for people in Western New York and beyond,” said
Albert Titus, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of
Biomedical Engineering.

The grant is part of $30.7 million for nearly 100 research
grants Komen is distributing across the country in the coming year,
with a focus on new treatments and understanding of the most lethal
forms and stages of breast cancer. Komen funding to institutions in
27 states and 7 countries also includes research into new screening
technologies, treatments for metastatic and aggressive types of
breast cancer, and disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

“We are so thankful for the friends, family and neighbors
who fight alongside us, helping to reduce the number of breast
cancer deaths in the region, both through life-saving local
programs and through research,” said Liz Kahn, executive
director of Susan G. Komen Upstate New York.

Since 1997, Susan G. Komen Upstate New York has contributed $5.2
million to Komen National Research grants. Komen also has funded
$14.7 million for community programs serving Upstate New
York’s women and men. Over $4 million has been spent serving
eight counties in Western New York.

“We are focused on new treatments, ways to overcome drug
resistance in breast cancer patients, and a better understanding of
how and why breast cancer spreads, so that we can better treat
metastatic breast cancer or prevent it all together,” said
Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen.
“This focus on aggressive and metastatic disease is the
foundation of our Bold Goal to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by
50 percent by 2026.”

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