AUSTIN, Texas—The National Science Foundation has granted $1.1 million to a collaboration of medical and engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Austin to use computer modeling for controlling a heat-based treatment for prostate cancer.
J. Tinsley Oden, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics and director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), is the principal investigator of the team involving colleagues in the College of Engineering and at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Professor J. Tinsley Oden
|Photo: Jennie Trower
The experimental treatment approach they will study involves threading an optical fiber inside a tumor within the prostate gland, and using the heat generated at the fiber’s tip to destroy cancer cells nearby. The three-year grant will allow Oden and colleagues to create computer models of bio-heat transfer to predict the outcome of laser therapy. The assessment will also involve visualizing treatments as they progress using 3D, computer-generated images to determine the best settings for laser devices.
“We’re going to predict how long into a treatment all of the cancerous cells have reached the required minimum temperature to be eradicated and, simultaneously, minimize damage to healthy cells,” said Oden, who is an associate vice president for research at the university, and holder of the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering No. 2. “This involves a feedback control system, all built on computer simulation.”
If too little heat is applied, some cancer cells will survive and potentially become deadly again. Too much heat, and an excess number of healthy cells die unnecessarily in the prostate gland or in nearby tissues.
“We’re hopeful this research will ultimately lead to a new, minimally invasive treatment for prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer found in American men,” said Ken Diller, chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and holder of the Robert M. and Prudie Leibrock Endowed Professorship in Engineering.
Diller, a co-principal investigator in the project, will help oversee the university’s participation in the study on two campuses. Dr. Chandrajit Bajaj, who holds the ICES Chair in Computational Visualization, is also a co-investigator on the project, and will supervise the work on computer imaging and visualization.
To learn about the M.D. Anderson team leader and others on The University of Texas at Austin team, see the grant summary on the ICES Web site.
For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272.