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Aaron Mohs Awarded Research Grant

Aaron Mohs, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering, cancer biology and regenerative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has been awarded a $1.37 million research grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) for a project designed to better detect tumor cells during surgery.

The four-year effort, which Mohs will lead, will focus on a key problem in cancer surgery – whether all of the cancerous cells are removed with the tumor. The goal is to develop special compounds that cause tumors to “light up” when exposed to near infrared light. Special surgical instruments would be used to detect the cancerous areas during surgery, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients. 

“A surgeons’ goal is to remove the tumor, as well as some surrounding tissue to ensure that cancer cells were not left behind,” said Mohs. “But how do they know when they’ve removed enough tissue? Our goal is to provide better real-time information to guide the surgery.”

The research team will develop nanoparticles based on hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally present in the human body. These nanoparticles will have the ability entrap near infrared (NIR) fluorescent dyes and will be used in combination with instrumentation to view the tumors. The project will investigate invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.

The project will focus on optimizing the loading of the dye, determining how fluorescence can be activated and performing studies in rodents to evaluate safety and whether disease recurrence is reduced. 

Members of the research team are: Edward Levine, M.D., Surgical Sciences – Oncology; Frank Marini, Ph.D., and Graca Almeida Porada, M.D., Ph.D., Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Ralph D'Agostino, Ph.D., Biostatistics; and King Li, M.D., Division of Radiologic Science. 

(Grant Number: 1R01EB019449-01)

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