Bhargava Lab receives grant to develop innovative cancer imaging


The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a new four-year grant of more than $1.6 million to University of Illinois Beckman Institute researchers for development of innovative cancer imaging.

In most cancers, especially in prostate cancer, it is difficult to predict if a diagnosed tumor will actually prove dangerous. This lack of precision in charting the course of the cancer means that many people who may benefit from a milder form of treatment are over-treated, leading to losses in quality of life and great financial cost to society. Currently there are no good methods to predict whether a specific tumor is dangerous.

Rohit Bhargava
Rohit Bhargava

Researchers in the lab of Rohit Bhargava, professor of bioengineering and member of Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, have proposed a new imaging method to determine the risk of lethal prostate cancer upon initial diagnosis. The project, “3D Prostate Histochemometry to Predict Disease Recurrence,” has been awarded $1,606,899 over four years by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health. Bhargava is an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The research relies on utilizing a new chemical imaging technology based on Raman spectroscopy to record data from tissues. The spectral data will be related to cell type and its chemical changes in a case-control cohort of patients designed to be from the most difficult 70 percent of contemporary prostate cancers diagnosed today.

“While past methods have focused on epithelial cells, our group plans to comprehensively profile all cell types as well as the extra-cellular matrix through this one measurement,” Bhargava said. “Our previous work has shown that both the tumor and its microenvironment can determine tumor growth, but there was no easy way to measure their contributions. Now the properties of each component of tissue will be used to characterize the disease with the new chemical imaging technology.”

Using the newly developed chemical imaging technology, in combination with an examination of the tumor microenvironment, the study will compare the results with existing standards in order to predict the chance of prostate cancer recurrence.