BCAN SAB Member Receives $480K NSF Nanotech Grant

July 29, 2014
by Vanessa Hoffman

Dr. Yair Lotan, a member of BCAN’s Scientific Advisory Board, received a $480,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a multi-institutional research team to develop a device that uses nanotechnology and a simple urine test to detect very small amounts of bladder cancer cells. Lotan, who holds the Helen J. and Robert S. Strauss Professorship in Urology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, will provide the medical knowledge for the project. He will collaborate with Samir Iqbal, electrical engineering professor and Young-tae Kim, associate professor in engineering, at the University of Texas Arlington, who will provide the instrumentation and engineering for developing the device. Their initial findings, which provided the basis for this grant, will be published in an upcoming article in Analytical Methods. The research team is developing a device using microfluidics, a field that involves engineering, physics, chemistry, biochemistry nanotechnology and biotechnology to handle small volumes of fluid. In this case the team is looking at using a small amount of urine to detect cancer. This is important because there can be a very small number of bladder cancer cells in a large amount of urine, making it harder to detect them. “If there’s a small amount of bladder cancer cells you still want to be able to detect them,” Lotan said. The device and method would allow for detecting even a very small number of bladder cancer cells in a large amount of urine. Detecting cancer earlier can lead to better treatment and improved survival. In the United States this year nearly 75,000 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer and over 15,000 people will die due to the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection is critical since according to the National Cancer Institute the five-year survival rate is 88% for Stage 1 compared to 15% for Stage 4.  Approximately 25% of bladder cancer cases are detected at more advanced stages. Diagnosing bladder cancer typically involves a cystoscopy and can involve biopsy, lab tests and imaging results that take a few days or weeks to provide results. The research team’s device would be less invasive and could provide much faster results.  Depending on cost and feasibility patients could even test their urine at home and send the results to their doctor. “For bladder cancer patients, this could be an avenue for less invasive surveillance” Lotan said. The new device and test could be used for screening or surveillance. Individuals with an increased risk for bladder cancer including current or past smokers could be screened for bladder cancer. If the test is very accurate and generates few false positives it would be very useful. The test could also be used for surveillance to check if the cancer has returned in previously diagnosed patients. “This grant is a great way to evaluate this concept to see if it works for bladder cancer. If so it could be used to detect other cancers.” Lotan said. “It’s exciting that bladder cancer could serve as a model for advancing cancer detection.” For more information about Yair Lotan’s research click here: http://www.uta.edu/news/releases/2014/06/iqbal-bladder-cancer-grant.php.

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